By Laura Ann Phillips
Without having seen either of the Horrible Bosses movies, I found the title intriguing. In the first movie, three friends share the injustice, insults and abuse they suffer at the hands of their bosses. Eventually, they concoct a plan to kill each of their workplace plagues.
Real-life workers are not likely to plot assassinations, but may find that they have grown to hate their bosses. Regular church-goers, some may be, struggling with resentment, aware of their call to master the sin crouching at their door (Gen 4:7).
Staffers who spend hundreds of hours completely at their employers’ mercy. Routinely unappreciated and underpaid, they are made to accept unfair work-loads and unethical advancement practices, often expected to work several additional hours with little or no overtime remuneration.
“You don’t like it? Plenty people waiting to get your job.” A commonly reported refrain.
The younger and relatively debt-free move on. Those with deep debt, dependents and fewer years to retirement are likelier to stay and silently suffer. All the while wondering: “Is it today that I’ll be fired?” Because so many are let go with such ease.
While not all employers behave like tyrannical overlords, the inherent imbalance of power between boss and worker makes it easier for unjust environments to develop unchecked.
The gospel of the 3rd Sunday of Lent (Jn 2:13-25) opens with an angry Jesus, who fashions a whip of cord and drives the purveyors of profit out of His temple. They operated within a system that regularly exploited worshippers, but it was the powerless poor who would have been particularly stung.
A village carpenter, Jesus would have been an itinerant craftsman in His day, one of the faceless hordes travelling around to find work. His state would have been remarkably similar to today’s working poor, who work hard, but never seem to amass wealth, living one job, one salary, one daily wage to the next.
And, that, in itself, is sinful, the Church teaches.
Paragraph 2434 of the Catechism instructs: “Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level…”
Apart from Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, other parts of Scripture caution against exploitation:
“You are not to exploit the hired servant who is poor… You must pay him his wage each day, not allowing the sun to set before you do, for he is poor and anxious for it; otherwise, he may appeal to the Lord against you, and it would be a sin for you.” (Deut 24:14-15)
In a February 2016 address, Pope Francis cautioned employers and workers in Mexico that: “The prevailing mentality puts the flow of people at the service of the flow of capital… the best investment we can make is in people, in individual persons and in families.”
This Lent, may we offer our prayer, fasting and almsgiving for peace and justice in every work place, and healing of any strained relationships between workers and bosses.
(Pope Francis’ quotes taken from the National Catholic Register website: