Post Mortem

Work ethic and work culture: A Christian perspective

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 1/30/2020 11:16:31 AM IST

 Work is by which, we find our self fulfilment and our self actualization. It is in this process that we humanize and become more humane too. Through work, human beings earn daily bread and contribute to the continual development and progress of society. In doing so they elevate the cultural and moral level of the society within which they live. By the term work we understand any activity by humans, whether manual or intellectual they engage in for their sustenance. It means any human activity that can and must be recognized as work, in the midst of all the many activities of which humans are capable of doing. The Bible gives a specific direction and clarity with regard to the involvement of work and the dignity associated with it. This article, examines the work ethic and work culture, in the backdrop of the Naga Society which boast as a Christi State. However, before reflecting further on the Naga society, the exposition of the Biblical perspective on work ethic and work culture is in order 

In the Bible human beings are made to be the visible universe as an image and likeness of God Himself. They are placed to subdue the earth and be the custodian of the earth (Genesis 1:27-29). God commands Adam and Eve to take care of the garden, to cultivate it for their sustenance (Genesis 2:15). From the beginning therefore, they are called to work. This work has become one of the characteristics that distinguish human beings from the rest of the creatures. 

We find our conviction in the very first pages of the book of Genesis the source of our inspiration that work is a fundamental dimension of human existence. From John’s gospel, we see the urgency of Jesus in his ministry. That is his heavenly Father is working so he too must be working (John 5:16). Before, he reached the public ministry; Jesus was helping his parents for the family upkeep. The Bible is silent about the early part of his life as it is not the intent of the Bible though to highlight the socio historical dimension per se, however, it highlights, in so far as the divine encountering humanity concretely. 

Acts 18:3 gives the profession of St Paul. Apart from his preaching work, Paul is Tent maker in order to earn his livelihood and not be a burden to others. No wonder, he speaks strongly to the Thessalonians, with regard to work. He goes on to say, one should not eat if he or she does not work. We should eat only what we earn. “We never accept food from anyone without paying for it; no, we worked with unsparing energy, night and day, so as not to be a burden on any of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-8, 10, 12¬). Today we want payment and do minimum work at the expense of public exchequer. 

Broadening the certain aspects that belonged to the Old Testament, Christianity brought about a fundamental change of ideas in this field. Taking the whole content of the Gospel message as its point of departure, when Jesus became like us in all things devoted most of the years of His life on earth to manual work at the carpenter’s bench. This circumstance constitutes in itself the most eloquent “gospel of work,” showing that the basis for determining the value of human work is not primarily the kind of work being done but the fact that the one who is doing it is a person. The sources of the dignity of work are to be sought primarily in the subjective dimension and not in the objective one. This means that any type of work that accrues income for human survival is worthy of its name and calls for deeper involvement in human development which can be at the personal level and at the social level too. This is the biblical injunction to which every sensible Christian needs to take his or her responsibility seriously and act consciously for the development of human society. Any work is worthy of its name whether it is white colour job, blue colour job or any type of professional work it is worthy of its name provided. 

It is precisely this fundamental affirmation about work that always emerged from the wealth of Christian truth, especially from the very message of the “gospel of work.” This gives us the basis for a new way of thinking, judging, acting and relating ourselves with one another without having any snobbish attitudes or insular outlooks. 

Remaining within the context of biblical injunction of work, it is now appropriate to touch upon, at least in a cursory way, certain problems that more closely define work ethic and the dignity of human work. By reaffirming them we can possibly characterize more fully its specific moral value. In doing this we must always keep in mind the biblical calling to “subdue the earth,” in which it expressed the will of the Creator that work should enable man/woman to achieve its end in the visible world that is proper to him/her.

God’s original intention with regard to man/woman, whom He created in His image and His likeness, was not to withdraw from the world and live in a secluded world without much sweat but to work and from sweat they shall eat. Without this consideration it is impossible to understand the meaning of work ethic and work culture. It is also impossible without this premise, to understand why work culture should be a virtue: for virtue, as a moral habit, is something whereby man/woman becomes good as man/woman and attains his/her higher faculties. It is by activating our higher faculties we minimize our animal instincts and progressively work for the society by working for ourselves and working for livelihood. Therefore, by having a positive attitude to work we cultivate the virtue of being humane and sane. The normal tendency in all of us is to eat without work which is against the very nature of our existence in the Biblical sense though. 

It can be argued further that work is a fundamental dimension of man’s existence on earth. Because the whole heritage of the many sciences devoted to man: anthropology, paleontology, history, sociology, and psychology and so on; they all seem to bear witness to this fact in an irrefutable way. But the source of this conviction is from the revealed word God mentioned cited above. Therefore, what is a conviction of the intellect is also a conviction of faith and what is of conviction of faith should be expressed tangibly for the good of the society. 

From the point of view of the Bible; work is the foundation for human existence. And this human existence implies the holistic dimension of human being- spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional. It is the command and the will of God that we work and earn for the daily bread. This calls for sincere commitment to any assigned work. This is the basis of work ethic and work culture without which no society can develop. What is ironical is that a Christian state like ours has become least in progress and development but high index in corruption. If work ethic is strictly maintained to a certain degree, then we will not be facing this inversion relationship between development and corruption. 

One of the reasons for the European’s high degree of work ethic and work culture is the doctrine of Calvin’s Predestination. According to Max Weber it was John Calvin who introduced the theological doctrines which combined with those of Martin Luther to form a significant new attitude toward work. Calvin taught that all men/women must work, even the rich, because to work was the will of God. It was the duty of men/women to serve as God’s instruments here on earth, to reshape the world in the fashion of the Kingdom of God, and to become a part of the continuing process of His creation. Men/women were not to lust for easy living without some way or rather work in the true sense of the term. Earnings were thus to be reinvested over and over again, ad infinitum. In this way the society pave the way for further development and reinventing God’s creation here on earth. 

What is striking in all these arguments is that work has an intrinsic value because in work we realize our finiteness, we become more humane, we continue the process of God’s creation. Progressive development is the fruit of systematic implementation of work ethic. However, this is not taking place in Nagaland. We have the best churches and perhaps even the biggest churches in the Indian subcontinent and yet the public utility buildings are in shambles which resemble our attitude and philosophy of life though. 

There are some people, for days together, will not go to office for work and yet it doesn’t prick their conscience that they are drawing full salary against their work. Many of the government school teachers when they are posted in rural areas or in some of the subdivisions of Kiphere, Mon, Tuensang, Phek, Peren etc they would send their substitutes and share the salary. When acute family situation demands it is understandable, however, notwithstanding their secured jobs and handsome pay, some do business to accrue more income. In some villages, the village education committee fix a rate for such kind of proxy teachers. 

We have become immune and silent spectators of the deprived conditions of our society. We don’t want to raise our voice against the unjust system that is prevailing. But when it comes to the core of our ego we will fight till our last breath. We all know the deplorable road conditions in our state, and yet very few bother to ask and demand for our civic right. When public facilities are half done and abandoned no one is there to raise the issue, but when the women folk demanded a representation of 33% in Urban Local Body election, there was violence on the road and our leaders have to seek shelter in military cantonment. On the issue of power sharing and governance, there is a sharp reaction against the women folk but for the drinking water in our capital and multiple taxes demanded on the people, poor infrastructure everyone is silent about them. 

For some people, days of absence from work is not an issue and the same people will be very much involved in Church activities and exhorting others to live according to Christian principles. In the name of the Lord’s programme, some are absent for days from work and it never occur to them that they are failing their duty. In the earthly matters, Jesus is very straight forward. “Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar and God what belongs to God” (Mt 22:21, NJB). Here the context is tax nevertheless; we cannot deny the fact that Jesus reiterates our allegiance to our temporal authorities and duties. 

Faith has become a private affair, a show of one’s devotion, focussing on the celebration part, though in itself it is important and necessary to bind people together, however, faith and work have to correlate inextricably as letter to James exemplifies to this fact. “Faith without deed is useless” (James 2:21, NJB). James goes on by quoting Abraham that faith becomes complete through good deeds (James 2: 22, NJB). Here good deed is always accompanied by sound moral judgement and ethical principles that demand from every sensible human being. We have well furnished churches in our villages equipped with latest acoustics for our worship experiences but the Lord is not interested in formalism of religion without adequate justice and fairness in society. “I hate, I scorn your festivals. I take no pleasure in your solemn assemblies. When you bring me burnt offerings, your oblations, I do not accept them and I do not look at your communion sacrifices of fat cattle... let me hear none of your strumming on lyres, but let justice flow like water, and uprightness like a never failing stream” (Amos 5:21-24, NJB). 

Therefore, we may reiterate that, work by its very definition demands a just approach backed up by ethical values to bring true transformation to human society. It is this ideal that we strive for and in the process of that our quality of life is affected through work and in work. Thus recognizing the virtue by which we cooperate in establishing a just society. 

Fr Vemedo J Kezo

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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