By “labour” we usually mean “productive physical toil, done for wages”. But this too restricted a definition of the word. For, first, no kind of labour performed by a human being is purely physical toil, and, second, all work is not done for wages. In all kinds of work done by human beings, the mind is involved, though in some kinds of work, physical labour may predominated. There are other kinds of labour in which mental exertion predominates. Office work, for instance, is predominantly mental. When students study, they are engaged in predominantly mental is the work done by teachers.
Physical labour, unfortunately, has always been held to be inferior to mental work. In olden days, manual labour was despised and entrusted to slaves. In fact, many Greece and the Roman republic, depended states were ruled by aristocratic minorities, and professions, and left all manual labour to slaves. In most countries of the world, this kind of slavery does not exist now a day. But in many parts of India, it still survives under the name of “bonded labour”.
The attitude towards manual labour as something inferior and unworthy of educated persons deserves to be condemned as wrong and immoral. For all work is divine worship: “to work is to pray”. Whatever work we do is ennobled by our own dignity as children of God. It is not the kind of work we do that confers dignity on us; it is we, as children of God, who confer dignity on the work we do. This is a truth that everybody should be recognized.