In his weekly Angelus message Wednesday, Pope Francis praised the value of hard work and a willingness to do one’s part for the common good rather than freeloading off society.
Citing Saint Paul, Francis said that “anyone unwilling to work should not eat” and added that being called a hard worker is the highest form of praise for a “serious, honest person.”
To call someone a worker, the Pope said, means that he is a member of the community who does his part and doesn’t “live off others.”
Work, he noted, “is needed to support one’s family, raise children and ensure a decent life to loved ones.” This habit of hard work, he added, is learned in the home, from one’s parents who support their family and in this way contribute to the common good.
Christians can find a great example of industriousness in the life of Jesus himself, Francis said. In the Gospel, “the Holy Family of Nazareth appears as a working family, and Jesus himself is called a ‘carpenter’s son’ or even ‘the carpenter.’”
Saint Paul’s injunction that people who don’t want to work shouldn’t eat is a “good recipe for losing weight,” he quipped.
Paul’s denunciation of idleness, Francis continued, “refers explicitly to a false spiritualism of some who lived off the backs of their brothers and sisters while ‘doing nothing.’” In the Christian outlook, a commitment of hard work is not opposed to a deep spiritual life, Francis said, referencing the example of Saint Benedict who taught that “prayer and work can and should be found together in harmony.”
“A lack of work is bad for the spirit,” the Pope said, just as a lack of prayer detracts from practical activity.
Work, he said, “expresses the dignity of being created in the image of God. That is why it is said that work is sacred.”
“I am sad when I see that there are people out of work, who cannot find work and do not have the dignity to bring home their daily bread. And I rejoice so much when I see that the leaders make efforts to create jobs and so that everyone has a job,” he said.
God’s commandment to man to work to cultivate the earth is part of his plan for creation, the Pope said. “The beauty of the land and the dignity of work are made to go together. Both go hand in hand: the earth becomes beautiful when it is worked by man.”
Francis also warned that the modern organization of work “sometimes shows a dangerous tendency to consider the family a burden, a weight, a liability for labor productivity. But let us ask: what productivity? And for whom?” A system based only on efficiency “is often hostile to children and the elderly,” he said.
May God enable us to accept his call to work “with joy and hope,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome