ASK FATHER: Laziness and accepting a paycheck

time clockFrom a reader…

Father, if one is lazy on the job and neglects some their duties over a period of, say a couple months, is that person required to make restitution to the company? does the amount of time that you are lazy and still accept pay make a difference here? im thinking 6 hours a week compared to 4o?

One good thing that the post-Conciliar liturgical reform brought to Holy Mass is the inclusion in the Confiteor of sins of omission. We commit sins “opere et omissione“- by action, and by inaction. Some sins of omission are easy to identify and to confess, “Father, I failed to say night prayers on two occasions.”

I remember a one panel cartoon I saw years ago.  Two souls are in Hell, up to their necks in fire.  One says to the other, “At least your sins were sins of commission!”

In agreeing to a work contract, one pledges a certain amount of effort and time in return for a certain amount of remuneration.  Recognizing that not living up to one’s end of the contract can be sinful is a sign of a well-developed conscience. If I promise you five apples in return for you giving me five dollars, and I only give you four apples, I have no right to demand five dollars from you.

It is a matter of justice to give someone what is his due.

With hourly work, we come into some gray areas.

Some folks can be unnecessarily hard on themselves. If they are not working at 100% for the full eight hours of their workday, they feel as if they slacked off. A reasonable employer, on the other hand, understands that workers need time for occasional breaks, or momentary pauses.

If you really believe that you’ve slacked off at work – and you’re confident that your boss is a reasonable person – you might speak to him or her. “Boss, in looking over my timesheet and my list of responsibilities, I see that, in the last couple weeks, I’ve failed to do everything on my list. I’d like to make it up to the company somehow.” If the boss is a reasonable person, he should be impressed with your honesty, and work with you to figure out the best way to move ahead.   You will, of course, have brought future attention and scrutiny to yourself.

If the boss is less than reasonable, it might be best to simply put your nose to the grindstone and resolve to work harder from hereon in, perhaps even slowly but surely making up for “lost time”.

One of the things we need to review in a daily examination of conscience involves how we -today – fulfilled or failed in our daily duties.  That includes doing good work for a wage.  Taking money for work you didn’t do is a kind of theft.  Restitution, if possible, is necessary because of justice.

A good confessor should also be able to help keep you honest and on track.


Moderation queue is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Polycarpio says:

    Father, I am reading your blog at work. Am I a bad person? :) [If you were reading Fishwrap I would say ‘yes’. But then it is usually a sin to read Fishwrap without serious cause.]

  2. Imrahil says:

    I think it can be assumed as “general trade terms” to be implied in the understanding of working contracts that what the company gets is a worker – i. e., a human being who works.

    Now, it is in part natural, in part fallen-natural, to human beings that they sometimes work less than they could.

    In fact, this is, in the main, what superiors are there for.

    To motivate, discipline, admonish and punish their inferiors into working as productively as (in the long term) possible. Ah yes, and then they also have to do some little organization.

    As when we once had a task to do (camouflage our tank – which takes some time) in the military. The NCO went on and on about how we are not to be lazy, etc. When the job was over, he said, “I did have to accelerate you, sure, but with that we really did it well. Fire at will”, the latter being the slang expression for “one cigarette’s length of break”.

    Hence, I’d say that in most cases (and the circumstances the man in question most best…) the failures may well fall somewhat short off the moral goal, and thus would probably be wise to bring to the Confessional; but not theft. It’d take some snekaing sort of shirking work for that.

  3. Bosco says:

    Dear Father Z.,

    You said: “If you really believe that you’ve slacked off at work – and you’re confident that your boss is a reasonable person – you might speak to him or her. ‘Boss, in looking over my timesheet and my list of responsibilities, I see that, in the last couple weeks, I’ve failed to do everything on my list. I’d like to make it up to the company somehow’.”

    WHAT? WHAT? WHAT? Aye Carumba, Father!


  4. Sonshine135 says:

    I honestly have to say this is one I have had issues with, and I have confessed. I try not to be scrupulous about it though. There are times I have worked 12+ hours in a day, and others when I have put in maybe 3 at best. When you are in sales, there are periods where there frankly isn’t much going on- punctuated by times where a lot is going on.

    This was much different when I worked an hourly and/or lower paying salary job where there was an expectation that you would take X amount of calls, resolve X amount of issues, or do X amount of construction. That was easier to reconcile.

    I also have faith that when I confess, “for these and all other sins that have escaped recollection, I am truly sorry.” that God will forgive me for these sins, even when I do not remember them perfectly. After all, his mercy is much greater than any sin I can commit, and if I recollect said sins, I will gladly confess them at the earliest opportunity.

  5. gramma10 says:

    One remedy is when one only gets paid commissions. They must work to get paid!

  6. yatzer says:

    Hmm, not saying night prayers is really a sin? You guys pay a lot of attention to details, which maybe I should consider doing, I suppose.

  7. jameeka says:

    Re: fishwrap. Reconnaisance is a serious cause, it is not?

  8. APX says:


    I worked commission only, and despite working hard, I didn’t get paid.

    I think we need to look at things on a bigger level. Sometimes we do more than what we’re paid for and other times we do less. Sometimes our employers have unreasonable expectations.

    I used to work for the government. They expected me to be able to bilocate and do all the office work I did in a 40 hour work week in two days at the office while being sent away for three days of the week on training. I ended up having to put in 16 hour days while only getting paid for 8 hours because the union agreed to voluntary overtime. If I didn’t get the work done, my supervisor was threatening to have me fired, so you work for free reminding yourself God will make things right in the end.

  9. John Grammaticus says:

    I assume that this doesn’t apply when one is on administrative leave?

  10. ppb says:

    My employer permits incidental personal Internet use, so I have no moral qualms about visiting Fr. Z’s Blog at work!

    However, if I have been seriously lazy at work I do bring that to confession, and try to make some reparation by volunteering for extra work at other times.

    Years ago, I used to lie and call in sick to work rather often. Once when I confessed this, the priest pointed out to me that taking paid sick leave for a false reason was an injustice to the employer. This really made me think, and I became much more diligent after that and stopped taking unscheduled “personal days.”

  11. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    Former retail-slave checking in:

    One day I was taken off the front lanes because a manager asked me to go outside and help bring in shopping carts as we were running low in the store. On the short walk to the the closet to pick up a high-visibility-vest that one needs to wear when one plays the game we liked to call: “Try not to get run over by a car and DIE!!”, another manager saw me and asked me to back up the customer service desk, as they were backed up, that manager didn’t give me a chance to tell them that I had already been assigned to go outside to collect carts and they just walked off. As that manager walked off, Another Manager saw me, they assumed I was coming coming back from my lunch/break and told me that we had a big crowd of people coming to the front lanes, and that I should jump on a lane to relieve the pressure. Then… as if The Fates really wanted to screw with me, Another, Supervisor this time asked me to go into the back-room to go get an item on hold for a customer…

    I know that I’m very smart, totally awesome, really, really, ridiculously good-looking, and an “all-around good-guy”, but bilocating is something that I haven’t figured out how to do yet.

    Needless to say, I don’t work there anymore.

  12. MrsMacD says:

    This is an interesting subject to apply to my vocation, as mother and housewife. My ‘paycheck’ is food and warmth and love in bounds, not to mention my own personal enrichment and sanctification, often I fall short of my standards of what a good mother should do in a day, but what are God’s standards? I mean, when He gives that, ‘be ye perfect…,’ pitch He raises the bar pretty high, but where is perfection to be found? I’ve pushed myself beyond the limits with months of necessary sleep deprivation and care for a new babe and completely slacked off and spent the day in an easychair, sipping tea and reading books or Fr. Z, but every body needs a break once in a while. When does the aforementioned laziness need to be brought to the confessional? How to tell the difference between laziness and much needed rest and recreation?

  13. The Masked Chicken says:

    There are other issues involved here, such as whether or not the work arrangement is moral to begin with. Contracts are only binding if they are moral arrangements. One cannot, in principle, agree to do evil work for money, although one can agree to do good work for free. For example, in higher education, part-time professors are paid by a contracted hourly wage, but, in reality, spend as much time as the full-time faculty (or more) meeting with students, grading, etc. If they only, “worked to the rule,” as its called – following the contracted hours, exactly – they would be fired for dereliction of duty, even though it is virtually impossible to do the job in the hours provided for by the contract, unless one has students who are perfect. Likewise, in some assembly line jobs, the repetitive stress often leads to health issues (such as in manufacturing of electronic devices). Is one required to injure one’s health to satisfy a contract which was poorly conceived?

    Sloth is the moral vice: “Sloth is defined as spiritual or emotional apathy, neglecting what God has spoken, and being physically and emotionally inactive. It can also be either an outright refusal or merely a carelessness in the performance of one’s obligations, especially spiritual, moral or legal obligations. Sloth can also indicate a wasting due to lack of use, concerning a person, place, thing, skill, or intangible ideal that would require maintenance, refinement, or support to continue to exist.”

    Obviously, illness, etc., can excuse performance and one should not confuse sloth with the effects of, say, depression. Likewise, some people are so stressed out at work that they retreat to things like the Internet as a way to cope with stress. Again, is this sin? Well, that depends on whether or not the working conditions are properly regulated. You are not liable if you get sick because your employer exposed you to a virus. Likewise, if a genuine illness is responsible, then that needs to be discussed with a spiritual director and it might be time to find a new job. Let’s face it, some jobs are just toxic r the environment of the job.

    The Chicken

  14. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Hmm, not saying night prayers is really a sin? You guys pay a lot of attention to details, which maybe I should consider doing, I suppose.”

    It is if one has a moral obligation to say night prayers. Most laymen are not obliged to say night prayer, even in secular orders, although it is said to be a good thing. By night prayers, I mean Compline. If, by night prayers you mean saying prayers before bed, no one is required to do that (except if they have vowed to do so), as it is not a liturgical function, although, it is, again, meritorious.

    The Chicken

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