It’s Labor Day! Today, we celebrate and honor the American labor movement and all the workers who have contributed to the prosperity and strength of this country. No doubt, many will have cookouts, spending time with family and simply relax. As we enjoy the unofficial end of summer, let’s remember the original Labor Day.
Most people do not have a healthy view of work. Consequently, many endure and tolerate Monday to start our journey toward the weekend. We dread Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Then we “Thank God It’s Friday” because it marks the beginning of the weekend. Is this a healthy way to think about labor/work? What does the Bible say about work?
The Original Labor Day
The original Labor Day began when God created humanity. One of the first things God did was ordain or inaugurate work. Work was and is a gift, not a curse, from the hands of God. When God created Adam, he gave him a command to work (Genesis 2:15; Exodus 20:9). I believe God created work to be a normal rhythm of human existence (Psalm 104:23). To refuse to work is immoral and sinful (Titus 3:14).
Violating God’s Labor Day Law
Rest is a healthy and natural part of God’s labor day. In creation, God has established a pattern of work and rest that is to be a model for believers (Genesis 2:1-3). Old Testament believers obeyed the Sabbath to balance work and rest. Jesus practiced a labor and rest rhythm (Mark 6:30-32). Therefore, we should supplement our work with regular rhythms of rest. When we work more than we rest or do not follow this divine pattern, we sin. Not only do we sin, we increase our chances of burning out. Therefore, we divine wisdom so we will avoid overworking and laziness. Work and rest are both potential means of making God look good (Colossians 3:17).
Why Did God Give Us the Original Labor Day
Why did God give us work anyway? This is a big issue. I believe there are several reasons why God gave us the gift of work.
- God gave us work and the ability to make money so we could be free from being dependent on others (1 Thessalonians 4:12).
- We work and earn money so we could find self-fulfillment in our work (Ecclesiastes 2:24).
- God gave us work and the ability to earn money so we can enjoy life. We work and earn money so we can enjoy the life God has given us (1 Timothy 6:17).
- We work and earn money so we can share with others (Ephesians 4:28).
Why Do I Hate My Job So Much?
If God ordained work, why do people hate their jobs so much? Why do they hate getting up and going to work? I think there is a good explanation for these feelings. Human work, which was once a pleasure, became a burden only on account of human disobedience. Consequently, work was under God’s judgment:
And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:17-19
Therefore, work often feels frustrating, discouraging and like a grind:
So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless. Ecclesiastes 2:22-23
And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry. Ecclesiastes 5:16-17
Though work is under the judgment of God, Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross secures redemption of human work. As we apply biblical virtue to our employment, pursue excellence and do our work as if Jesus is our boss, we can once again bring glory to God in our work.
The Consequences of Viewing Work As a Gift From God
When we view work from God’s perspective, we can draw some interesting and compelling conclusions.
- We have a moral duty to work. If we can work, but choose not to work, we are sinning and immoral. There is a difference between being physically or emotionally incapable of working and refusing to work. The former is understandable; the second is inexcusable (Titus 3:14).
- Every legitimate job – menial or mundane – has intrinsic worth.
- Any legitimate job is a means of worshiping God (Colossians 3:17).
- Any legitimate job is God’s calling (Genesis 2:15).
- Work is empty apart from God (Psalm 127:1).
- We should acknowledge our dependence on God, not in our jobs and the money we make from them (Deuteronomy 8:18-19).
As you celebrate with family and friends, don’t forget to thank God for giving us the gift of work. No matter how menial or mundane our job, we have the potential to glorify God. God calls us to do the job we have been hired to do. If it is a dirty job, we are responsible for doing our best in every area every time. Let’s do our jobs with excellence and with the right attitude. When we do, we glorify God and increases our chances of helping others do the same.