Theology of Work: An Introduction

One of the characteristic aspects of human life is that we are people involved in some work or the other. Traditionally, work has been associated with some form of human activity that is income generating or related to productivity. To ask the question are you working? Would most often imply, do you have a job? But, as we know, work and human activity is far broader in scope. A housewife who does not get any income is equally engaged in work as is her husband who is involved in job that keeps the family going. For that matter, all activity in human life comes under the scope of work. Work or human labour or activity is an important facet of human life.

The theology of work thus is an attempt to understand work in the light of creation, incarnation, sin, redemption and eschatology, and not as often happens, only in terms of one of these mysteries. The theology of word must also take into account all aspects of human life: social, historical, and economic factors that make work so elevating or degrading.

It is not easy to define work. Language is very fluid: e.g., liturgy is the ‘work of the people’, and we ‘work at improving our cricket game’ and we ‘work at our diet’ or we ‘workout to keep in shape’.

The basic analogy for work is agrarian or artisan activity: using bodily energy to change the physical world in order to provide for the basic needs. Today, however, we also take into account the issues of intellectual research and the provision of social services as being part of work.

The theology of work is a theology that is evolving. This is so because human beings keep evolving themselves and bring so much more into the area of human labour.

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