To Work or Not to Work

The word “work” is defined in the Concise Oxford Dictionary, Tenth Edition as “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result; such activity as a means of earning income.”

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 2 reads: – “Everyone is entitled to all rights and freedom set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other stratum. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of Sovereignty.”

Article #19- “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”

Article #23, (1) – “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment to just and favorable condition of work and to protection against unemployment.”

(2) – “Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.”

Enshrined in the Constitution of Antigua & Barbuda 1981, are certain fundamental rights and safeguard of privileges consistent with the above.

The origin of work is depicted in the book of Genesis 1:1-15. It is recorded that God worked for six days creating this world and then rested on the seventh. We note that God was the first person to work on this earth and we can state that legitimate work is inherently good. Work is about dignity, since it glorifies God and to wantonly deprive one from being productive is being defiant of God Himself.

When God had completed His creative acts, He placed Adam in the garden of Eden to work and to take care of the environment. In other words, he was the caretaker of what God had created and there was nothing degrading about that since it was a dignified role which he had to play.

However, after the fall of man in Genesis 3 through disobedience, the earth was cursed and whereas in chapter 1, man’s job was not strenuous, now he is told that by the sweat of his brow he would eat bread. In other words, work would now become hard labour since the very earth was also cursed. The word toil is used implying challenge, difficulty, exhaustion and struggle. Although man would eat the plants of the field, the field would also produce thorns and thistles,. Hard work and effort will not always be rewarded in the way the labourer expects it to be.

Man’s basic needs are food and shelter and how else can he achieve these without work. When a person works, it gives him a type of satisfaction. The old saying is “a hungry man is an angry man.” When a person is not working, that situation can lead to serious emotional and physical problems such as stress, hypertension, anger, and these can eventually lead to suicidal thoughts.

When a person is wantonly and indiscriminately dismissed from a place of employment that person becomes angry, he’s full of hate and can become bitter and resentful. The situation becomes even more aggravated when he is told to come back for his monies which are due to him. In my view, this is unconscionable and should never occur. If a man is being sent home, he should leave with what belongs to him. However, we live in a society where people are afraid to stand up and fight even for their rights. Leviticus 19:13 is an extremely important passage – “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him, the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.” Employers should indeed value their employees since they are the greatest assets. However, people can be become rather unscrupulous at times.

Just a word of caution to the wise: we are sowing seeds and we have to be careful. We will reap exactly what we sow. Again Scripture warns us that our deeds will follow us from generation to generation.

There is a societal and obligatory responsibility toward employment and in most instances, the government is responsible to create avenues so that people can be gainfully employed. This is not to suggest that government can employ everyone. Private sector also has a role to play and also people themselves can become entrepreneurs.

Work is a gift from God and people do have a sense of pride when they are able to have that sense of independence. The Bible is clear that laziness should not be tolerated – “He that is slothful in his work is a bother to him that is a great waster” (Pro. 18:9).

The Apostle Paul valued the importance of work and on several occasions, he made reference to working with his own hands. However, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, he sets forth an extremely important principle, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

Also, in 1 Timothy 5:8, he states, “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”

There are those who genuinely do look for work and have a hard time finding gainful employment, however, I must posit that no work is demeaning except through nefarious means such as stealing and crime etc.

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