Our society seems to be dominated by work and employmentWe have to work more, because of the need to work, because of the usefulness of work, because of the constraints and pains of work, because of the risks of exhaustion. We have to work more, otherwise those who don't work run the risk of no longer being able to feed their own.

Those who do not work are excluded from life in society, and there is no greater exclusion than from the world of work. And at the same time, we all aspire to work less, and the rest is more often described as "earned. There is also this idea of work as a source of fulfillment, as certain professions are seen and described as absolutely essential means of personal/professional satisfaction. 

Work and employment by the Bible

So what does the Bible tell us about this work that has become so essential in our lives? Obviously a lot, but actually very little: if work occupies an important place in our lives, we cannot say that this is the case in the Bible, at least as such. 

This relative absence of work in the Bible may make us wonder if work has not become a real power that takes over our lives, without us understanding it as such. But perhaps this is in fact the sign of a real power, barely visible, but so present that it conditions our decisions and our aspirations.

Sure, the Bible often tells us of characters struggling with an activity that is of the order of work, but work is not a complete domain of life, almost separate, but a backdrop to life. 

Examples from Genesis

In Genesis 38, Judah, after the death of his wife Shoua, goes up to Timmah to shear his flocks. In Genesis 38, Joseph's brothers went to Shechem to feed their father Jacob's flocks. Thus, the fact of devoting time to one's livelihood appears regularly in the Bible, but it is not visualized as first, it is second to everything else and to the relationships between the characters. 

Even if sometimes subsistence is no longer assured, which happens regularly. At the end of Genesis, a new famine strikes the Hebrews who leave to escape the famine in Egypt: Jacob's sons will thus meet their brother who has become Pharaoh's minister. Previously, Abraham had already made this trip to Egypt for the same reasons. In the book of Ruth, Naomi, her husband and their two sons leave their land in Israel to find food in the land of Moab, on the other side of the Jordan. 

There is a very large gap between reading the Bible and reading today's newspapers: these days, much seems to be based on economic life, on the loss of wheat or sunflower oil production in Ukraine, and these issues end up filling the space to the point of becoming a fundamental prism through which we represent what happens to us. This is not the prism of the Bible, even if the famine took Joseph's brothers to Egypt to find food there. But that is not the most important thing, that is not what we are called to think about, that is not our condition as children of God.

Work at Creation (book of Genesis)

In the beginning was God who created the world in 6 days and that each day he saw that it was good and on the seventh day he decided to stop, not to rest but to contemplate his creation. The first creation account (Genesis 1:1) avoids the idea of God's work: on the seventh day, God interrupts the work he was doing (TOB translation): creation is a work and not a work. 

In the second creation story with Adam and Eve ( Genesis 2), at the beginning there is still no work: man is placed in a certain garden where God causes trees to spring up that are attractive in appearance and good for food. The Garden of Eden could be sufficient to feed its inhabitants without any effort other than harvesting its fruit, except for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 

Yet man is placed in the Garden of Eden to guard and cultivate it. We are in the middle, Adam is not there to work the soil, but he is not there to do nothing, he is put there "to cultivate and guard" this very particular garden. To keep it against what you ask? 

The text is left unanswered in this passage (Genesis 2:15), but one can also imagine that man, created in God's image, represents him to care for creation. But we can also hear a distinction between tilling the soil and working for food. So there are good ways to practice one's profession and other not so good ways.


In any case, the distance between the decalogue and what we live is such that perhaps we should simply reflect on two or three ideas:

1. Work has a place, a real place, for the decalogue invites us to do all our work for six days to set aside the seventh for rest and the Lord. Which brings us to the fact that the work of the week is not work in general, but has a purpose, which is to do your work. 

And so each one must reflect in a concrete and personal way on his work: we are not called to work endlessly, we are called to do our work, just as God did in Genesis 2, verse 2: "On the seventh day God finished the work he had done, on the seventh day he stopped all the work he was doing. 

2. On the seventh day the work stops, is consecrated, consecration is part of the work, the work is finished. Spiritually, as we begin our week, we must ask ourselves what our work is for the week, so that it is finished, not infinite, and so it can be consecrated on the seventh day to the Lord. 

No, life is not enslaved to work in a flow that does not stop, and that we do not control, the Bible firmly calls us to reflect and decide on our work for each week, so that this work can be completed and consecrated to the Lord. 

3. The commandment also has great consequences for our relationship with others: on the Sabbath day, you will not make your servant work, nor the emigrant who is in your cities. We are also responsible for others in their ability to have this day of rest. 

Even though uninterrupted work has become a reality in our world, we should always keep in mind that weekly rest was prescribed as one of the ten commandments and that we should not remain passive in the face of an unsatisfactory state of affairs.