Objection 1. It seems that I’ve been working on the railroad just to pass the time away. Work on the railroad is merely a means to an end: that the wretched hours of toil may pass. I’m working merely for that rest, which I anticipate will follow my work, and for the monetary compensation that permits my rest to persist.
Objection 2. Further, if I had been working on the railroad for any reason other than to pass the time away, I would be doing violence against myself, for work is a necessary evil. Work is a divine curse, for the LORD God spoke thus to Adam, “Because you have…eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life…. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground” (Gen. 3:17-19). Since the Fall of Adam, man works only because his very survival depends on it.
Objection 3. Further, when a person suffers greatly (perhaps, in times of physical pain or emotional turmoil), he desires strongly to “pass the time away.” No one seeks to prolong his sufferings, but rather seeks their rapid extinction. Thus, since work necessarily entails the suffering of the worker in some way, one who has been working on the railroad will strongly desire to “pass the time away.”
On the contrary, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Man was not made for work, but work was made for man. Thus, I’ve been working on the railroad for reasons far nobler than “just to pass the time away.”
I answer that, I must have been working on the railroad for reasons other than “just to pass the time away,” for God created man to be a worker. Every person possesses a mysterious vocation to work, which manifests itself in ways particular to each person. Thus, those who work on the railroad all the livelong day have, in a sense, been called by God to carry out this noble and necessary endeavor. “If any one will not work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). This maxim was true even before the Fall of Adam, for man needed to work then in order to enjoy the fruits of his labor (as he does now). What changed is that suffering became attached to work due to Original Sin, which attached the possibility of suffering to everything earthly. Yet, the vocation to work was from the beginning: man cannot exist—whether in this life or the next—without an undertaking to pursue.
Reply to Objection 1. Working on the railroad is not a means to an end, as has been shown above. Work is an end of itself, a noble vocation granted by God to each person. While it is true that monetary compensation and the rest from labor it ensures are goods integral to work, they are not the end of work itself. Rather, material goods and leisure are the means by which a man may most fruitfully labor, according to his vocation.
Reply to Objection 2. Work is not a necessary evil: it is more than a mere requirement for man’s survival. One must distinguish between evil, which the Fall of Adam introduced into the world (and thus work), and work itself, which was created by God. The disobedience and fall from grace of our first parents necessitated that all suffering enter the human condition, including the realm of work. Thus, it is indeed by the “sweat of [one’s] face [that one] shall eat bread” (Gen. 3:19). However, the suffering now attached to labor does not transmute the noble and necessary call to labor that God instituted from the beginning. Simply because something entails suffering does not make it evil, for many things in our world require suffering that are, in fact, very noble and good (such as, childbirth, athletic training, and martyrdom).
Reply to Objection 3. It has been shown above that the suffering entailed in work does not make work itself evil or in some way ignoble. Further, suffering can always bring about a greater good and this is most especially contemplated in the Passion of Christ. Thus, suffering is not an obstacle (to be always “rapidly extinguished”), but rather an efficacious means for sanctification for the sufferer and all mankind. Hence, the Apostle states, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Thus, it is evident that I’ve been working on the railroad not to pass the time away (to minimize my sufferings), but rather to give glory to God and to serve my fellow man.