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I saw this quote today and it made me think:

Work is sacred. It is not just a way to earn money or gain power, though it may result in both. Work is a vehicle for testing out our gifts and talents and using them to explore their meaning.

Anne Wilson Schaef

Going back to the Bible to think about this.

Starting in Genesis 2:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Here we see the created purpose of humans is to work. God thinks work is a good thing for humans to do.

Going to Genesis 3

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

In this we see work as a curse that comes after the fall. (Maybe you could read that God made work good, but it was broken by sin, and perhaps retains some of its original goodness by the common grace of God - but that is stretching this passage too far I think).

In 2 Thess 3 we read:

10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."

11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.

12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.

Here we see that work is a necessity for life, it is the means by which we have food to eat.

In Ephesians 4:28 we read:

28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Here we see the necessity of work to provide for those in need.

The broader themes we draw out from the Bible here are work as a necessity, work as a curse. Perhaps that work has fallen from what it was designed to be.

I don't find Anne Wilson Schaef's quote quite fits into this framework.

My question is: Does Anne Wilson Schaef's statement about the sacredness of work fit into a Biblical worldview?

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  • The Genesis passage needs to go back a chapter. "15 Then the Lord God took [d]the man and put him in the garden of Eden to [e]tend and keep it." 2:15. God gave man work before the fall. Before the fall, everything was holy. Also, work gives particularly men purpose, which frequently leads toward more satisfaction with lifer in gernal and holy living as a byproduct.
    – nickalh
    Oct 9, 2021 at 3:38
  • Thanks that's helpful.
    – hawkeye
    Oct 9, 2021 at 3:50

1 Answer 1

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Does Anne Wilson Schaef's statement about the sacredness of work fit into a Biblical worldview?

May Christians would think so.

Pray and work

The phrase pray and work (ora et labora) refers to the Catholic monastic practice of working and praying, generally associated with its use in the Rule of Saint Benedict.

Benedict viewed prayer and work as partners, and believed in combining contemplation with action. The phrase expresses the need to balance prayer and work in monastic settings and has been used in many religious communities from the Middle Ages onwards.

Some orders (such as the Cistercians) applied the concept directly to farm work and became an element in the movement towards land reclamation from rot and agricultural development in Western Europe. Other orders such as the Humiliati applied the concept to the production of woolen cloth using wheels in the period prior to the Industrial Revolution.

Prayer, should follow and the commencement and end of work in the eyes of St. Benedict, whether of weekly appointment or a daily task assign to the monk. Work is sacred and we should sanctify it through prayer as St. Benedict would for his monks.

Let the brethren serve each other so that no one be excused from the work in the kitchen, except on account of sickness or more necessary work, because greater merit and more charity is thereby acquired. Let help be given to the weak, however, that they may not do this work with sadness; but let all have help according to the size of the community and the circumstances of the place. If the community is large, let the Cellarer be excused from the kitchen, or if, as we have said, any are engaged in more urgent work; let the rest serve each other in charity.

Let him who is to go out of the weekly service, do the cleaning on Saturday. Let him wash the towels with which the brethren wipe their hands and feet. Let him who goeth out, as well as him who is to come in, wash the feet of all. Let him return the utensils of his department to the Cellarer clean and whole. Let the Cellarer give the same to the one who cometh in, so that he may know what he giveth and what he receiveth back.

An hour before meal time let the weekly servers receive each a cup of drink and a piece of bread over the prescribed portion, that they may serve their brethren at the time time of refection without murmuring and undue strain. On solemn feast days, however, let them abstain till after Mass.

As soon as the morning office on Sunday is ended, let the weekly servers who come in and who go out, cast themselves upon their knees in the oratory before all, asking their prayers. Let him who goeth out of the weekly service, say the following verse: Benedictus es, Domine Deus, qui adjuvisti me et consolatus se me (Dan 3:52; Ps 85[86]:17). The one going out having said this three times and received the blessing, let the one who cometh in follow and say: Deus in adjutorium meum intende; Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina (Ps 69[70]:2). And let this also be repeated three times by all, and having received the blessing let him enter upon his weekly service. - Holy Rule Of Saint Benedict Chapter XXXV Of the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen

Even Pope Francis calls work Sacred!

Pope Francis said Wednesday that work is something sacred.

“Work is precisely from the human being. It expresses his dignity of being created in the image of God. Therefore, it is said that work is sacred,” the Pope said Aug. 19.

Because of this, he added, managing employment “is a great human and social responsibility, which can't be left in the hands of the few or discharged to a divinized market.”

The Pope spoke to pilgrims present in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall for his Wednesday general audience. His comments are part of his continued series of catechesis on the family.

After announcing last week that he would shift his focus to the different rhythms of family life, such as celebration, work and prayer, Francis today turned to the topic of work.

“Through work, the family is cared for, and children are provided with a dignified life. So, too, the common good is served, as witnessed by the example of so many fathers and mothers who teach their children the value of work for family life and society,” he said.

Francis noted how, in the Bible, the Holy Family appears as a family of workers, and Jesus himself was referred to as “the son of a carpenter” and even “the carpenter.”

He criticized the lifestyle of those who refuse to work.

Even St. Paul, in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians, doesn't hesitate to admonish Christians who espouse this attitude, when he tells them, “Whoever doesn't want to work, doesn't eat,” Francis observed.

What St. Paul refers to is the “false spiritualism of some who live off the backs of their brothers and sisters without doing anything,” the Pope said.

However, on the other hand, he said that because work is something sacred, managing it within civil society is a major responsibility, and “to cause a loss of jobs is to cause a serious social harm.”

The Pope told attendees that he is always sad when he sees a person who lacks work and the dignity of bringing bread home to his or her family.

But “it gives me joy when I see that the governments make a lot of effort to find places of work and ensure that everyone has work,” he said, and he encouraged those present to pray that no family suffer from unemployment. - Pope Francis: ‘Work Is Sacred’

Let us not forget what St. James said about faith and works!

Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith obut does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 pIf a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 qand one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good2 is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith rapart from your works, and I will show you my faith sby my works. 19 tYou believe that God is one; you do well. Even uthe demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 vWas not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that wfaith was active along with his works, and faith was completed xby his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a zfriend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also aRahab the prostitute justified by works bwhen she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

St. Paul wanted to support himself. Yet his impulse was not only to support himself in his preaching ministry, but also to provide financial support to the entire community. When Paul describes his economic impact among the Ephesians, he says:

I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities, and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:33-35, emphasis added, RSV)

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