Monday is Labor Day, so naturally we try not to labor. Labor Day is celebrated annually on the first Monday of September, by millions of workers across the United States. It is meant to show appreciation for their contributions to the prosperity, strength and health of our nation. It is a way of saying thank you to those who help make our nation strong through their labor and productivity.
In the United States, Labor Day originated in the labor union movement during the latter 1800’s. Thirty states already celebrated it by the time it became a federal holiday in 1894. Violent clashes between workers and owners occurred as the labor movement grew. In Chicago, during 1886, there were massive protests against 18-hour workdays and unfair labor practices. Thousands of workers demonstrated and walked off their jobs. What followed was a crackdown that resulted in the deaths of 6 workers on May 6, and more than a dozen a few days later. The strengthening labor union movement forced municipalities and businesses across America to recognize that workers had rights and needed to be treated fairly.
Some of the benefits of the labor movement in America are the 8-hour workday; weekends off work; paid vacations; lunch breaks; better wages; and paid holidays. Here is what the United States Department of Labor adopted to pay tribute to American Workers on Labor Day:
“The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known, and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.”
It may surprise you to know the Bible has much to say about labor, the benefit of work, and the value of industry and wholesome employment. Even God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. As He looked at the result of His work—all of creation—“God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Since we are created in His image, He designed us to experience similar fulfillment through hard work.
What does God expect of His people, in their work?
FIRST—God created humans with a desire to work and accomplish things. “God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed” (Genesis 2:8). Later Scripture reveals, “the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (verse 15). For the Christian, work offers an opportunity to serve God, earn a living, and with perseverance and patience, meet the needs of others with a Christ-like attitude. Working enables Christian people to support their church, help the truly needy, and enable missionaries to go around the world with the saving gospel of Christ.
SECOND—Work is to be done with a positive attitude, because you are actually working for the Lord on your job: “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” (Colossians 3:23).
THIRD—Christians are to work to provide for their own needs—Paul the missionary, supported himself and his team by manual labor to set the example for others. He said, “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:34-35).
FOURTH—God commands Christians to work and provide for the needs of others. “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28).
FIFTH—God blesses the lives of those who labor and honor Him—“Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19).
SIXTH—Jesus is our perfect example of diligent work. He worked hard to honor His Father. His work was essential. Jesus said: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:34).
SEVENTH—Diligent work brings great reward—“Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Proverbs 10:4). “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29).
I hope you enjoy your work—and your time off on Labor Day. Most of all, I pray your work will benefit you, bless others, and honor God!