The Dignity of Work

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Recently some politicians and even some religious leaders have floated the idea of a “Universal Basic Income” (UBI) — a monthly check that one would receive solely for being a human being.

While this idea is probably motivated by compassion, it is also strongly against Catholic Social Teaching, particularly about the dignity of work.

Today is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, and Catholic thought has always seen work as having its own intrinsic dignity. It helps bring order out of chaos; it is a practical means of practicing charity towards one’s neighbor; it perfects us, as we grow in virtue through work; it makes us like God Who gave us His dominion over creation.

Part of the dignity of work is to have the satisfaction of independence — a man or woman can provide for themselves and their families with their own hands. Money that is earned has a value to it, because it corresponds to the efforts and energy the person used to obtain it.

To simply give people money with no strings attached is beneath their dignity. It turns every American into a charity case; it devalues work by making it something optional; it makes someone dependent upon the government rather than experiencing the joy — and the responsibility — of working for a living.

Obviously, there are some who cannot work for various reasons (health, disability, etc.) — and in extraordinary times such as this, there is nothing wrong with receiving a handout from a government. But for politicians and religious leaders to say that UBI should be the standing law of the land is an offense against the dignity of the human person.

Some would argue, “Having a UBI would not necessarily make people lazy.” To that I would respond: are you familiar with the teaching of original sin? Because of concupiscence, all of us have a natural tendency to take the path of least resistance, the way that is most comfortable and easy. Unconverted man needs a motivation to work, as he needs a motivation to do anything that is truly good but difficult. And the satisfaction of supporting oneself is the only thing strong enough to overcome our natural lazy tendencies.

“If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.”
~ 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Do not fall victim to the false compassion promised by the UBI! If there are poor among us, they should be fed — and employed — through the generosity of the Christian community, not being made dependents on the State. And a UBI would make us all dependents upon the State — which would quickly eliminate our dignity as free men and women.

Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
~ 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12

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Photo: Joesef Key, Unsplash / PD-US
Fr. Joseph Gill

Fr. Joseph Gill

Fr. Joseph Gill grew up in a musical family in Frederick, MD, the oldest of five children. His father taught him piano from a young age, and his mother often sang in the church choir. He began writing songs very young, honing his skill further when he received his first guitar. After his conversion, he dedicated his life and his songwriting to the Lord [https://frjosephgill.bandcamp.com/]. Fr. Gill was ordained a Catholic priest in May 2013. He is currently serving at the Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist, Stamford, Connecticut. He shares his homilies at http://thecrossstands.blogspot.com/

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