You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18
Last Sunday one of my pastors mentioned how Basil the Great (Bishop of Caesarea) founded what some consider the first hospital in Europe. It was an example of how the church’s love for its neighbors demonstrated the truth and power of the gospel and aided in the ancient world’s acceptance of Christianity.
It is pretty easy to see how work of that kind can help spread the faith. Jesus, Himself, cared for the sick. But what about those of us who don’t work directly in the care industries. What about Christians who work in manufacturing, consumer durables, or other sectors? Do we have stories of how people working in our professions have served the Lord?
It turns out we do. The Abbey at Fontenay, founded by Saint Bernard of Clairveaux in the 12th century, built the first metallurgical factory in Europe in 1220. The monks of Fontenay invented the hydraulic hammer. For the first time in western history, people were able to forge and shape iron without the limitations of human muscles. Powered by a waterwheel, the monks’ hammer could tirelessly strike the metal harder than any human smith. The result was a massive increase in metal production, both decreasing costs and increasing the quality of iron tools. Some would hold that those humble Cistercian monks of Fontenay started the industrial revolution that helped bring Europe out of the dark ages.
It also turns out that the way most Christians love most of their neighbors is through the economy. We buy and sell things people need at prices that are fair and create value for both parties. We innovate in ways that help ourselves and others. We discipline our competition to be more efficient every year. We manage our resources in ways that maximize the value of all the things over which the Lord has granted us stewardship – including each other.
When the church gets up and goes to work every day, we each have an opportunity to spread the gospel. As we humbly and quietly work to love our neighbor, we instill trust and appreciation in the people of Christ. What we do (and occasionally refuse to do), how we do it and, most importantly, who we do it for, bears witness to the power of God working in us. Work well, my friends. Allow the Lord to make you salt and light to the people around you.