Created: Saturday, 25 May 2013 Last Updated: Monday, 27 May 2013



1. – Bread in the Bible is God´s gift and a symbol of any need. The one who lacks bread, is lacking everything. It is food, strength, a means of subsistence. Jesus invites his disciples to ask for every day bread (Mt 6, 11). The bread seems to sum up all our needs. At the same time, the bread is the product of human work, a hard work, perhaps. What does the bread mean for us? God´s gift? a product of our own work?, hard work?. And the labour relationship, is it one of fraternity or one of slavery?

2. – The bread is not only a means of subsistence, but also something to share, a means of communion. The bread unites. Abraham feels God´s presence in the travellers and he shares his bread with them. (Gn 18, 3-5). Food in incompatible with treachery. The latent tension hits you in the eye: “the one with whom I shared my food, has lifted his heel against me” (Ps 41, 10; Jn 13, 18).

3. - Lack of bread is an inconceivable blot amidst a fraternal people, claims solidarity: “the warm hearted man will be blessed since he shares with the poor” (Pr 22, 9), the righteous man gives his bread to the hungry (Ez 18, 7; Jb 31, 17; Tb 4, 16). The real fast is “to break the fetters of injustice, unfastening the thongs of the yoke, setting the oppressed free and breaking every yoke; to share the bread with the hungry and to bring to your house the homeless” (Is 58, 7). In the present world 850 million persons have difficulties to get the adequate food. In October 2008 unemployment raised in Spain in 193.000 people.

4. – Confidence in God is tested in hard situations: Would God be able to prepare a table on the desert? (Ps 78, 19). “Perhaps God is taking care of my cause and my God of my work? (Is 49, 4). Loaves multiplication narrative is meaningful. The abundance of God´s gift is well expressed in the signal made by Elisha: “They shall eat and have some left over” (2 K 4, 42 ss). The evangels, recalling the experience in which “all of them ate and everyone had enough” (Mt 14, 20; Jn 6, 12; Ps 78, 25), celebrate the bread with which God feeds his people.

5. – The bread is a product of the work. It belongs to God´s original plan. “Yahweh God took Man and placed him in the garden of Eden to till  and take care of it” (GN 2, 15). The Decalogue commands to keep the Sabbath day, after six days of work (Ex 20, 8), The universe is in man’s hands, who must submit the earth (1, 28). Those who work, bear the creation: “the object of their prayer is the works of his trade” (Sir 38, 39). All the creation is conceived in the Genesis around the frame of one week that ends resting the Saturday. The man created to God´s image (Gn 1, 26), must work it and take care of it. Human work develops God´s creation, accomplishes his will: “Do not hate hard work” (Sir 7, 15). Work is a law of human condition; it is imposed over any man, even before he feels God´s call.

6. – It is common sense: the work is a right and a duty, too. It requires responsibility. The lazy has not to eat (Pr 13, 14), he exposes himself to starve to death (21, 25), there is nothing like hunger to stimulate the work (16, 26). Idleness is degradation: “The door turns on its hinges and the lazy man on his bed” (26, 14), “the lazy is like a dirty stone, his disgrace is laughed at” (Sir 22, 1). Paul is strict: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not to eat” (2 Ts 3, 10).

7. – Well done work is appreciated in the Bible. Without workers “no city could be built” (Sir 38, 32). The woman who works is praised and she does not eat the bread of idleness (Pr 31, 27). The salary is bread, something sacred: “Bread is life for the poor; he who takes it from them is a murderer. He who deprives others of a livelihood kills them, and whoever withdraws the salary of a worker is guilty of blood” (Sir 34, 18-22).

8. – The work is law of the human condition, but it is affected by the evil: “Cursed be the soil because of you.  In suffering you will provide food for yourself from it, all the days of your life. It will produce thorn and thistle for you and you will eat the plants of the field. With sweat on your face you will eat your bread” (Gn 3, 17-19). Arbitrariness, violence, injustice, rapacity make work not only overwhelming, but a hate and a division source. Workers working for nothing (Jr 22, 13), farmers overwhelmed by taxes (Am 5,11), villages subdued by forced subsidies (2 SA 12, 31; 1 Sa 8, 10-18), slaves condemned to works and to blows (Sir 33, 25-29), exhausting work under a merciless vigilance amidst a hostile people (Ex 1, 8 – 14; 2, 11-15; 5, 6 – 18).

9. – The Lord liberated his people from a hard and slaving work. His covenant has a series of clauses to preserve the work, if not already of all that of painful it has, at least from its most inhumane ways. The Sabbath puts a truce into the tiring out work sequence (Ex 20, 9) to insure a rest to man and to every living creature (Ex 23, 12; Dt 5, 14) following God´s example who manifests himself like a God who works, rests, liberates from slavery (Dt 5, 15).

10. – Prophets denounce injustices inspired in the money eagerness. Greed drives to diverse stealing ways: it drives the trader to falsify the scales, to speculate and take money out of everything (Am 8, 5-6); to the rich man to extort and to hoard property (Am 5, 12; Is 5, 8), to exploit the poor (Ne 5, 1-5; Am 2, 6); to the chief and the judge to demand bribes (Is 33; Ml 3, 11), to violate the rights (Is 1, 23; Ml 7, 3). People ask John the Baptist: What must we do? He answers them: “If you have two shirts, give one to the person who has none; and if you have food, do the same”; he says to some tax collectors: “Don´t collect more than your fixed rate”; and to some soldiers: “Don´t take anything by force or threaten the people by denouncing them falsely. Be content with your pay” (Lk 3, 10-14). “You can not at the same time serve God and money”, says Jesus (Mt 6, 24).

11. – Work is praised by Jesus´ example, the carpenter (Mk 6, 3) and carpenter’s son (Mt 13, 55), and by Paul’s example who works with his hands (Acts 18, 3) and praises himself for it (20, 34; 1 Co 4, 12). Nevertheless, the evangels seem to keep about the work a surprising silence, emphasizing above all God´s works: “my father continues working and I also work” (Jn 5, 17). It is necessary to discover it, to celebrate it, to collaborate with God´s work: “Praise Lord in his magnificent works” (Ps 150), Great and marvellous are your works” (Rev 15, 3).

12. – Jesus announces God´s kingdom: “Look first for his kingdom and his justice” (Mt 6, 33). All the other things, to eat, to drink, to dress has its importance, but the one who worries about it to the point to lose the sight of the first, loses everything, even if he wins the whole world (Lk 9, 25). In front of what is the first, all the rest goes to a second place. That is what Jesus says to Marta: “You worry and agitate about many things; and only a few are needed, or, even better, only one” (Lk 10, 41-42). Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow, they do not harvest, but, God feeds them. Look at the flowers in the fields how they grow; they do not toil or spin; nevertheless, God dresses them; how much more will he clothe you? (Mt 6, 26-28).

13. – To pin down the work, to play it down, does not mean to devaluate it, but to put it in its place, to put his value under the creation order (15, 11-15), a very high value. Jesus, like it happens in the Bible, picks up comparisons from the work world: shepherd, wine grower, sewer, harvester, doctor, and he is attentive not only to those that he elects like collaborators (Mt 4, 18), all his behaviour means a world in work (Lk 15, 8), we must not bury the talent received without making it to fructify (Mt 2, 4-23). Paul advices “to keep out from any brother who lives in idleness” (2 Thes 3, 6).

14. – The work, says the Council, “is the ordinary subsistence means for the worker and his family; under it, the man unites to his brothers and it is a service for them”, “from here derivates for every man the duty to work faithfully, and also the right to work” (GS 67). The right to a truly human life is related to this right. According to the Human Rights Universal Declaration, “every person has the right to an adequate life level insuring him and his family, health and welfare, and, in special, food, dressing, housing and the necessary social services; he also has the right to insurance in the case of illness, disability, widowhood, old age or any other case losing the subsistence means due to circumstances independent of his will” (DDH 25,1; see GS 26). The right of trade association is also related to the right to work: “Any person has the right to found trade unions and to join a trade union to defend his interests (DDH 23, 4; see GS 68).

15. – Jesus´ message reveals the vocation of God´s children, shows man’s dignity, establishes a hierarchy of values that helps to judge in the work. His kingdom does not belong to this world, but it is in it like ferment. It defends the worker’s dignity. It gives to his work the fraternal love dimensions. Fraternal love (Jn 13, 34) overcomes selfishness and decreases work’s fatigue.

16. – The work, placed under the perspective of the one who makes all new (Rev 21, 5), comes back to be what it was at the beginning, according to God´s original project. However, “the order of the world is vanishing” (1 Co 7, 31), what does it rest from the achieved world?. “Love never passes (13, 8), “God is not so unjust as to forget our work” (Hb 6, 10), “happy from now are the dead who have died in the Lord. The Spirit says: let them rest from their labours, for their good deeds go with them” (Rev 14, 13) God´s plan, says Paul, is summing up all in Christ: “To make everything to have Christ as head” (Eph 1,10).


* Dialogue: What does bread, work, labour relationship mean for us? What should we do?