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Who are you working so hard for?

Have you seen the bumper sticker that reads Want Peace? Work for Justice!? I can’t help but think how much better our workplaces would be if we all took that simple message to heart.

We would first need to agree on the meaning of justice. Unfortunately, some see it as justification for demanding personal entitlements. Others see it as a rationale for retaliatory violence. We might consider a definition of justice that is more helpful in living our Christian faith in the practical, everyday world.

Justice happens when people and things do what God intended and created them to do. In this sense, the purpose of all creation –  including our families, schools, churches, businesses and governments – is to reflect that goodness that God created. Justice exists when all aspects of our daily work life can be said to reflect the goodness and love of God, and we work for justice when we freely participate with God in letting that reflection become visible.

In his recent book, Work for Every One: Francis of Assisi and the Ethic of Service, Father David Flood, OFM, describes work as a tool of social transformation, which is intended to make people “subject to each other.” We all engage in work as a common task in order to promote the development and dignity of our neighbor. Father Flood points out how this is in stark contrast to our more prevalent societal pressures that work should primarily be a vehicle for individual accumulation of possessions, power and status over others.

The purpose of a human being is to be fully human. Christ showed us that to be fully human and to truly love ourselves, we must give up attachment to our own desires and serve others first. All that we have in this life is a gift from God to be shared for the benefit of others and helps us follow more closely in the footprints of Christ.

We are especially called to serve the poor and marginal in our society. The first place each of us can look each day to work for justice is to look at those in our world who do not have a voice in their own work. These are the marginal and the poor of our workplace.

In my consulting firm, our first step is always to identify and acknowledge those in their workplace who have no voice in decisions that affect them. Our efforts are then directed toward increasing their level of participation and involvement in their daily work. Who are the powerless, voiceless poor in your workplace who need you to work for justice on their behalf? What are you called to do in your daily life to bring about greater justice for others? Jesus said the poor would always be with us and then He sent us to love and serve them and to bring the Good News to others.

What part of your daily life needs to hear that Good News today? And, more importantly, are you willing to speak it?