I am grateful to my parents for many things, but one I am reminded of on this “Labor Day” is that they taught me to work. I’m thankful too that I grew up in a time when most youngsters learned a work ethic, because there was usually lots of work to do. We had a little farm and fruit ranch and a big garden, so there were always chores to do. I also inherited a “fish-worm business” from my older sister. I sold three dozen worms for 25 cents! I also would get 25 cents an hour for weeding the garden. It seemed like a lot of money at the time. But far more than the money, it taught me the value of work and of saving for things I wanted to buy, like a bicycle. I later got a newspaper route for The Pennsylvania Grit and a few years after that got a route for a daily newspaper, which I delivered on my bicycle over a seven-mile route to about 50 customers.
As a sophomore in high school, I got a job at a local Coast to Coast hardware store. During college I worked for my brother-in-law and his construction business called Kutz Builders. When you worked for Dick Kutz, you really worked! He had a great reputation in the community for high quality work as well as finishing projects quickly, so there was no slacking and everything had to be done precisely. If he made a half-hour run for materials, we were given a half-day’s work to keep us busy while he was gone! I also learned some basic building skills for which I am very appreciative.
Work is a major topic throughout Scripture, starting with God’s creation of the universe and the earth and all that is on it and in it in six days (Gen. 1,2; Neh. 9:6) setting a pattern for man’s work week (Ex. 20:11). He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to care for it, so work was part of man’s responsibility before sin took place. Though work became much more difficult because of the curse put on the earth when sin occurred, it is not part of the curse, but something that is part of our makeup being made in the image of God. When the tabernacle and temple were built craftsman were hired according to the special skills God had given them.
God the Son even learned a trade as He grew up in the home of Joseph the carpenter (craftsman). I’m sure he too had a good reputation for the quality of his work. The Jewish Rabbis had a saying: “He who does not teach a son to work, teaches him to steal.” Paul, the apostle and missionary to the Gentiles, worked extremely hard, often against great adversity, in his ministry. In his letter to the Colossians, he wrote: “And for this purpose, also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Col. 1:29). He exhorted the believers at Colossae, saying : “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than men” (Col. 3:23). “Our position, as followers of Christ, gives every job we do a higher, clearer, ultimately more satisfying sense of purpose” (Paul Nyquest). All our work, when done as service to our Lord, has significance. All Christians work for the same employer!
Nehemiah led a group of Jews from captivity in Babylon back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls that had been destroyed. He faced much opposition but was successful in completing the task. One of the secrets (besides God’s enabling) is given in Neh. 4:6: “So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, FOR THE PEOPLE HAD A MIND TO WORK.” Unfortunately today, too many people stop looking for work when they get a job! They don’t have a mind to work. They just want to get a paycheck. The world is full of willing people—some willing to work and some willing to let them, saying, “I love work. I could sit and watch it for hours!”
As believers, we should be examples of those who “have a mind to work.” Work isn’t just a platform to do ministry—it is ministry. In fact, when done heartily as to the Lord, it is also worship. Do you have a “mind to work”? I hope so, and I hope you have passed it on and are passing that on to you children and grandchildren. “The world is moved not only by the mighty shoves of the heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker” (Helen Keller).
Happy Labor Day!