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The Church and politics

Jesus’ comparisons between servants on the basis of the use they made of their talents, as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (Matt. 25:14-30), was a radical statement two thousand years ago and a severe criticism of the society of the time.

It was unthinkable in His day for the rich to do work. They indulged in games, celebrations, and from time to time wars, but they did not work – that was what they had slaves for.

The Christians, and especially the Christian monks and nuns, overthrew that social order.

It was a well-known tenet of monastic life that, alongside selfishness, idleness is one of the greatest of all sins.

The monastics of the early centuries of Christianity summed up their philosophy of life in the phrase ora et labora, “pray and work”, which underlined the nature of the Christian faith as one in which the fate of the individual is inevitably linked to how he chooses to use his time.

Prayer and work are also to the fore when we consider the relationship of Christians to the society around them.

Both Judaism and Islam prefer to emphasize the social obligations placed upon the individual by God, which from a Christian viewpoint is a somewhat “legalistic” approach.

For Christians, their relationship to society at large is more a matter of spirit rather than of the letter of the law.

The use of social and political power is legitimate in the Christian view, but nothing more than that.

Christianity always operates at the individual level, where prayer and work are manifestations of the love and compassion that individuals feel for others.


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