On Labor Day, we traditionally take time to recognize the great workforce here in America. From factories to restaurants, from hospitals to machine shops, from schoolrooms to department and grocery stores, laborers help make the economy run, and on this day America honors its workforce.
Oh, you thought it was just a final holiday before school starts at the end of summer! Well, that is what it is for many, the final long weekend before the fall routine begins. To many, “work” is a dirty word. That is especially true for a high percentage of young people. For many adults, work is just a necessary evil in order to make a living.
Did you know that we were created to work? God designed work as a good thing and designed and equipped us with abilities to work. In Gen. 2:15, we learn about Adam’s role in creation (and Eve’s when she joined him). God put him in the garden to “work (cultivate) it and keep it.” In Scripture, the verb used for “work” most often describes service to God, rather than agricultural tasks. Thus, Adam’s assignment (and Eve’s) was not merely a utilitarian or physical job. It was a spiritual one. Their work was their worship.
God set an example for us when Hecreated the heavens and the earth and every living thing in six days and then rested on the seventh day (Ex. 20:11). When He gave the ten commandments to Israel, He made reference to His creative “work” and told them, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work”…but, “the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God, in it you shall not do any work”…but “keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8-10).
The Bible frequently commends those who work. For example: “Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need” (Eph. 4:28). To the saints at Thessalonica, Paul wrote: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you” (I Thes. 4:11). We are to have a mindset of work, not laziness or expecting others to do for us what we can do for ourselves. One who refuses to work becomes a burden to society and is a reproach to the community of Christ. Paul set a good example to those at Thessalonica, as he worked his trade of tentmaking so as to not be a financial burden to them. “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God ” (I Thes. 2:9). Laborers are honored in Scripture, and so is labor. It should be an act of worship for the believer. No matter our trade (providing it is ethical and moral!) we are given this exhortation by Paul: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father…Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:17,23,24).
Rather than seeing their work as a way to worship God, many can’t wait for weekend or the next holiday. Many complain about even a five-day week, and “T.G.I.F” is a common feeling as the “weekend” approaches. “Labor” Day is now a day mainly for fun, but it might be a good day for Christians to thank God for the privilege of work and doing that work “heartily, as for the Lord” (Col. 3:23). Our work, whatever it may be, can become a real testimony for (or sadly, against) the Lord whom we profess to serve. But, unless we keep God at the center, our work becomes useless. It is possible to work hard and achieve nothing of eternal value. “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchmen keep awake in vain” (Psa. 127:1).
It is perhaps significant that neither holidays nor vacations nor retirement are mentioned in the Bible at all. There were many “holy days” and “festivals” (Eg., Col. 2:16) when “no servile work” was to be done, but they were associated with a special feast of some deep spiritual significance. They certainly were not holidays in the modern sense, devoted mostly to pleasure.
In the ages to come, there will still be work to do for the Lord. In that day, it is promised that “His bondservants shall serve Him” (Rev. 22:3). “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).
Today, whether you work in the office, a worksite, or at home, let everything you do be infused with an awareness that the One you serve is God Himself! Praise God today for the joy of participating in His work in the world, feeding the hungry, creating beautiful pieces of art, disseminating knowledge, constructing homes, and creating life-sustaining products.