OPINION: The ethic, honor and dignity of Labor


Little Bonne Femme Baptist Church
Columbia, Mo

Several scripture passages in the Tanakh extoll the worth of work. (The Tanakh is the proper name for the Jewish Bible. We Christians erroneously renamed it the “Old Testament.” When relying on texts from the Tanakh, I use its appropriate name.)

Ecclesiastes (Kohelet – Hebrew) provides several passages (3:13; 5:18-20; 9:10) which I read as instructive as to the worth of labor. We should work as best we can; it is a part of our worship of the CREATOR. Honest, diligent work is an honorable thing in the ?sight of God. Proverbs (Mishlei Shlomo – Hebrew) likewise has sayings revealing the CREATOR looks upon the work we perform as good and blessed (10:4; 14:23; 18:9; 22:29).

Suffice it to say, these and other verses provide more than a sufficient and logical basis to conclude there is an ethic, honor and dignity with being engaged in honest labor.

I learned firsthand about the worth of labor growing up on a 60-acre family farm in Saline County, Missouri. I was not paid an allowance. As Dad would remind me, my compensation was the house I lived in and being able to put my feet under my mother’s table three times a day. Fair and adequate wages at the time.

The ethic instilled by my parents was quite simple – do the best you can. Show up on time, work hard and finish the job. Honest labor bestows honor upon the worker.

To take up a given task and complete it, demonstrates in a very tangible manner that the laborer is a person who deserves to be honored for what he or she has produced or accomplished. Dignity is a part of the fabric of honest work.

I do not consider that my profession as an attorney is any more dignified than my occupation, years ago, of loading trucks on a dock in Marshall, Missouri. In my legal, ministerial and the various manual labor jobs I have worked throughout my life, each was worthy of respect. None was to be more respected than the other. In every job I ever worked, it was labor in which I took pride. It consisted of accomplishment, which demonstrated self-respect.

Whether digging a ditch (yes, been there – done that), rendering an administrative law opinion or preaching a sermon, I take pride in what I accomplished. Many of the skills I learned and developed working on a farm I no longer utilize (haven’t milked a cow in decades, but still can do so, if needed). However, the ethic, honor and dignity imparted to me have served me well and will do so throughout my life.

To all my brother and sister Laborers, always take pride in who you are and the work you do – you are engaged in acts of worship to the CREATOR.

(Brother Tichenor is a part-time bi-vocational minister, pastoring Little Bonne Femme Baptist Church, Columbia, MO. The son of a Teamster and himself a former Teamster on a withdrawal card, he currently has a limited estate planning law practice. )


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