Moral Theology, Chapter 14

Work and its necessity for a Christian. Relaxation and a self-possessed spirit. Prayer, vows and oaths as the means of surmounting bad habits.

Photo: Photo:     

A necessary condition for any kind of human activity that strengthens the Will is work. God commanded sinful man still in Eden to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. Thus, everyone must work. In the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, it is written, That ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you (I Thess. 4:10–11). And in the Second Epistle, He severely chastises those who act indecently and “vainly” and presents his call towards work, who does not want to work, does not eat (These words were also stolen by the Communists, who pass them off as a product of their own creation). On top of this, it is essential to see that Christianity never separated work into “white” and “black”. Until recently, this separation was often promulgated in contemporary society, scornfully referring to largely dirty physical labor as “grunt work”. But Christianity demands only that man’s work be honest and correspondingly beneficial. From this Christian point of view, a man occupying a high and responsible post, carelessly fulfilling his duties, is much lower than the most insignificant of his subordinates, if the latter fulfills his responsibilities in a Christian, conscientious manner. Everyone knows from personal experience the consoling satisfaction one feels after working honestly and diligently and the nasty sediment which remains in the soul after spending time emptily and senselessly.

Presently, a very false and sinful view of work and relaxation has spread among the youth. Work is looked upon as unpleasant to the greatest extent; as a heavy, subjecting yoke, and efforts are made only to get rid of it as fast as possible, “to take the load off your back”. All strivings and effort are directed towards “relaxation” (from what?!) and amusement. There is a proverb that “work has its time, fun its hour”. Many would like it to be the other way around… But first of all, this is sinful and not at all Christian, and secondly, relaxation and amusement are only pleasant and enjoyable when they are deserved by the preceding work. In order not to have emptiness and distraction within the soul, so common in our nervous, uneasy, agitated time, a Christian should teach himself self-possession. Man should watch himself in all respects, clearly accounting to himself his moods and strivings, understanding exactly what must be done at any given moment and towards which goal he must direct all his efforts.

Speaking about strengthening the Will, it is absolutely necessary to notice those incidents when man feels his Will to be powerless in withstanding temptation or a sinfully rooted habit. Here he must remember that the first and basic remedy in such cases is prayer—a humble prayer of faith and hope. Prayer will be discussed later. For now, let us only remember that even such a great spiritual man as Apostle Paul spoke about his powerlessness in struggling against sin and in creating good (“good, which I want, I do not, but evil, which I don’t want, I do”). That is what constantly happens to us, who are powerless and weak. And prayer can help us because it attracts God’s almighty strength to vows and oaths, and is important in the strengthening of our will in the struggle against sin. A vow is a man’s promise to do some kind, agreeable deed—for example, to help a poor person, to build a church or almshouse, to support an orphan (or, as our ancestors often did, to make a pilgrimage to a holy place for prayer), and so forth. Applying them to our conditions, such vows can occur in the following way: if a man notices some negligence in himself such as not helping others very much, being lazy at work, not caring enough for his family, and so forth, he must choose a definite, constant good deed for himself in the respective area of negligence and fulfill it infallibly as his responsibility. Oaths are similar to vows, except that they are negative in character. In an oath, man gives a promise not to do a particular sin, to struggle in the most decisive manner with one or another sinful habit (for example, drinking, smoking, cursing, and so forth). Often these oaths are given solemnly before the Holy Cross and Gospel.

Of course, the best type of oath is given for an entire lifetime. However, it is often permitted to give an oath for one, two, or three years. It is self-evident that a vow or promise must be given only after having weighed the personal strength and decisiveness with which the vow must be fulfilled, come what may, with God’s help. Our Savior warns us to avoid careless, thoughtless vows beyond our strength in the proverb of the unwise tower builder, who was laughed at by onlookers, who said, this man began to build and couldn’t finish (Lk. 14:30). There is also a Russian proverb that tells us to “chop a tree according to your strength”, and another says, “look before you leap”. However, if a vow has already been given, then fulfill it unfailingly, summoning God’s help, “Not having given your word, be firm; but having given it, keep it.”

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)
Parish Life, November, 2022
St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Washington, DC


Here you can leave your comment on the present article, not exceeding 4000 characters. All comments will be read by the editors of OrthoChristian.Com.
Enter through FaceBook
Your name:
Your e-mail:
Enter the digits, seen on picture:

Characters remaining: 4000

to our mailing list

* indicates required