There’s a big weekend coming up. Labor Day—the unofficial end of summer and much more!
Labor Day has been celebrated in the United States for over one hundred and thirty years. New York City was the first to celebrate Labor Day. It did so on September 5, 1882. By 1894 the United States Congress had designated the first Monday in September as Labor Day and made it a national holiday. Since that time, Labor Day has been celebrated with parades, BBQ’s, family gatherings and trips to the beach.
Though not much is said about the meaning of Labor Day any longer, its purpose was to celebrate workers. According to the Department of Labor’s website (click here), Labor Day “is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” Look around and observe the abundance that we enjoy in the United States (or in any of the industrialized countries). Labor has played a major role in creating that wealth. The idea that labor is a blessing rather than a curse, though, is a different perspective than many people have.
A BLESSING OR A CURSE?
Just look at these statistics:
Only 45% of US employees find their jobs satisfying and only a slim majority finds their jobs interesting (Conference Board).
Only 45% of workers say they are satisfied (33 percent) or extremely satisfied (12 percent) with their jobs.
Only 20% feel very passionate about their jobs; less than 15 percent agree that they feel strongly energized by their work. (http://careerchangechallenge.com/job-satisfaction-statistics)
In a practical way (no matter what their theological beliefs) a lot of people think that God’s words in reaction to Adam and Eve’s rebellion was a real curse. It is written “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life … By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:17b, 19). In other words, we have to work because someone screwed up.
THE BIBLE’S THOUGHTS
The idea that work is a curse is not a Biblical concept; rather work is viewed as a part of life. St. Paul expands this idea in his writings. In his letter to the Romans Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sister, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Our bodies—our everyday activities and our work—are a form of worship, not just a fact of life and certainly not a curse.
In several letters (Romans 12:5-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 27-30) Paul talks about the variety of gifts and vocations with which God has blessed God’s people. It is true that Paul is applying this insight to the Christian fellowships that he started. I think we can broaden these thoughts to our work and the gifts we bring to the work place. Certainly the reformers did this.
Martin Luther, one of the leaders of the Reformation had a high regard for work. He writes, “…the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks…all works are measured before God by faith alone. (The Babylonian Captivity of the Church) (See more at: http://blog.tifwe.org/martin-luthers-view-of-faith-work/#sthash.abxBxFDR.dpuf)
Luther’s words were taken to heart by his followers and by other branches of the reformation. They birthed the “Protestant Work Ethic” that people honor God by good work and hard work. That good, hard work created the blessings we enjoy today. Sadly, fewer people acknowledge this idea today, as religion and faith are increasingly separated from life. Though we may not be able to affect society’s view of work, we can change our perspective.
A CALL TO ACTION
This weekend as you are enjoying being with your family and friends savoring BBQ chicken and ribs or frolicking in the water at the beach, pause to say, “Thanks.” Thank the Lord for the job that you have and for the way that it provides for your family. While you are doing that, you may also want to say a little prayer. Pray for the people who are unemployed or underemployed. There are many whose observance of Labor Day will be tinged with frustration and grief.
Have a great Labor Day weekend. It is one of God’s gifts to you.
…the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ on whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks…all works are measured before God by faith alone. – See more at: http://blog.tifwe.org/martin-luthers-view-of-faith-work/#sthash.abxBxFDR.dpuf…the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ on whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks…all works are measured before God by faith alone. – See more at: http://blog.tifwe.org/martin-luthers-view-of-faith-work/#sthash.abxBxFDR.dpuf