The Standard September 9, 2021
On September 5,1882 the first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City. In 1894 President Grover Cleveland signed a law making the first Monday in September an annual national holiday. Labor Day celebrates the vast achievements and contributions of American workers. In every country in the world, people work hard and use their talents and ingenuity to create, develop, and sustain. It seems like God has given most of us an innate desire to contribute to society and to accomplish certain goals. The challenges are to honor God in our tasks, to strike a balance between work and rest and to become consumed with neither. We see in the Creation Story and the Ten Commandments how God wants us to value a break from our labor.
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3) “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
King Solomon, son of David, wrestles with several of life’s big philosophical questions and draws some conclusions in Ecclesiastes. “What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all of their toil – this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13)
Many of us have days of being more or less motivated to stay on task. We might be tempted to forget that the fruits of our labor should honor God and not be completely self-serving. The Book of Proverbs offers all kinds of advice about these topics.
“Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. The wicked desire the stronghold of evildoers, but the root of the righteous endures. Evildoers are trapped in their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble. From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward.” (Proverbs 12:11-14) “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” (Proverbs 18:9) “The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing.” (Proverbs 21:25-26)
Whether we work outside of the home or at home, whether we get paid or don’t, we each have unique opportunities to model Christ in what we do. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” (Colossians 3:23) “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17)