Paul’s teaching on: ‘The Dignity of Labour’
(2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Colossians 3:23)
Dignity means respect and labour means work. Therefore, dignity of labour refers to respect for all types of decent work. Paul’s teaching on ‘the dignity of labour’ was in connection with his teaching on “Jesus’ Second Coming” to the Church at Thessalonica. When he had left, some of the Thessalonians thought the Second Coming of Christ was around the corner. They confused imminence with immediacy. They believed that there was no need to work if Jesus was coming soon. Because of this belief (that the Christian community should provide for all their needs till the coming of Christ) they refused to work to earn their living.
When Paul heard of this, he wrote to them. He warned them against this kind of erroneous idea which amounted to laziness. He condemned their laziness and advised them to work hard to earn their living. He said they should keep away from anyone who would not work so that he might be ashamed of himself. But they should not treat him as an enemy. He should be encouraged as a Christian brother to have respect for work, and work hard to earn a living.
Paul said that any lazy person who refuses to work should not eat. He cited his own personal example that he had worked hard with his hands to sustain his life. He did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it. He worked day and night to earn a living and did not live as a parasite on others. He wanted them to imitate him as a good Christian example of hard work.
The Significance of Paul’s teaching on the Dignity of Labour
Paul’s emphasis on the dignity of labour means that laziness, the opposite of hard work, should be condemned by all Christians. Laziness is to be condemned for the following reasons: a lazy person will always be a source of sorrow for his parents; he becomes an easy prey in the hands of the devil; he constitutes a menace to the government and the community to which he belongs; he may end up as a slave to his colleagues and even his juniors; he destroys his self respect and loses his sense of independence. Laziness can lead to immoral behaviour as the lazy person struggles to make a living, and may end up as a charlatan.
Paul’s teaching on: ‘Obedience to Constituted Authority’
(Romans 13:1-7; Ephesians 6:5-8).
According to Paul, for law and order to be established in the society for peaceful co-existence, there is the need to have the right attitude towards the governing authority. This means that, for peaceful co-existence, we must be obedient to constituted authority. The government of the country is the constituted authority. Therefore, Paul admonishes all Christians to be subject to the governing authorities for peaceful-co-existence, for there is no authority except those from God. For peaceful co-existence, all existing authorities are instituted by God. Since authorities are instituted by God, it means therefore that, to resist them is to resist God. To disobey them is to disobey God. Such resistance or disobedience will earn those concerned the wrath or judgement from God.
Paul said rulers or those in authority are not terrors to good conduct but to bad conduct. Therefore, good citizens should not exercise undue fear about those in authority as long as they obey the rulers and conduct themselves well. If they do what is right for peaceful co-existence, they will receive the commendation of the governing authorities, for they are God’s servants. On the other hand, if they do any wrong to disrupt peaceful co-existence, they should be afraid and be prepared for the consequences. The wrath of God would fall on such wrongdoers. Thus to live a life of good citizens, peacefully co-existing with others, Christians should always maintain a clear conscience. For peace and progress in society, Christians must pay their taxes as and when due; they must give respect to constituted authority.
The Significance of St. Paul’s teaching on obedience to constituted authority
Paul’s teaching on obedience to constituted authority, for peace and progress, means that we should obey our rulers and carry out our civic responsibilities. We obey constituted authority when we obey the laws, rules and regulations of the land. We carry out our civic responsibilities when we pay our taxes, rates and levies promptly. We should vote (if an adult) and being counted in a census. We must learn to express our grievances through constitutional means such as dialogue and not through violent demonstrations.
We must shun membership of secret societies (cults). We must take part in public enlightenment campaigns to eradicate illiteracy, partiality and discrimination, piracy, communicable diseases, child abuse, hard drug peddling, fraud, bribery, corruption and so on. We must also take part in the activities of such organizations like the Scripture Union, Student Christian Movement, Girls Guide, Boys Brigade, Boys Scout and Church youth organizations. As adults, we must do an honest job and promote the economy of our country. Finally, when we grow up, we must learn to bring up our children in the fear of the Lord by teaching them to be God-fearing, honest, contented and law abiding.