Work is a good thing. God made it so when God worked for six days when God created the world. On the seventh day, God rested from all of the work he had done (Gen 2:2).
It is part of God’s master plan for the human race that people would work and be partners with the Creator in the ongoing work of creation. When God placed the man in the garden, God told him to “care for it” (Gen 2:15). God also said, “By the sweat of your brow shall you get bread to eat” (Gen 3:19). Cain and Abel were workers, one a tiller of the soil, the other a keeper of the flocks (Gen 4:2). Noah was a ship builder.
St. Joseph was a tremendous worker. Modern Bible translations say that Joseph was a carpenter, but he most likely was a craftsman who worked in both wood and stone. Joseph invested the talents and abilities that God gave to him (see Mt 25:14-17,19-23). He delivered a valuable service to his customers and provided for his family. Since he was a righteous man (Mt 1:19), it is presumed that he was industrious, that he gave an earnest and steady effort, and that he was diligent and conscientious, reliable and dependable, productive and efficient. As we commemorate St. Joseph on May 1st, it is a time to take note of his positive attributes as a worker, and use these exceptional qualities as an inspiration and guide to help us be better workers ourselves.
Work provides resources to support one’s self and one’s family; contributes to the well-being of others and society; enables a person to share with others, particularly the needy; prevents unnecessary dependency; utilizes one’s unique skills and gifts; keeps a person constructively occupied; reduces gossiping and meddling in the affairs of others; and can be an avenue to personal holiness.
While work is a virtue, sloth is a vice and a capital sin. The slothful person is lazy, has little ambition, gives little or no effort, is sluggish and apathetic, and avoids work. Often laxity in work goes hand-in-hand with laxity in the spiritual life. St. Paul has stern words for lazy Christians: “If anyone [is] unwilling to work, neither should that one eat” (2 Thes 3:10).
Laziness is a sin against God’s love. It is the failure to invest talents in a constructive way for the benefit of others and the glory of God. St. Joseph honored God by being an industrious worker. His memorial is a reminder that God wants each of us to be good workers.