People love long weekends and holidays that land on Mondays. For some people Labor Day represents the unofficial end of the summer and the start of back-to-school season. Labor Day is an important holiday that means more than just another day off. Labor Day is an annual celebration dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers for their strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
American workers have built a strong nation with railways, dams, roads and much more. Men who have had visions get the credit and it was the workers who turned the visions into reality. People work long hours and take less vacation time. This holiday emerged from the great labor movement in the United States. That is a very important movement, and it played a very important role in American history.
People need respite which is important. As an entrepreneur, you’re making a contribution to the world, as well as supporting yourself and your family. That deserves a day of honor. People like to be recognized for their achievements and contributions. We should remember the working men and women who came before us and through their sweat, blood and tears and gave us the rights that were fought for and earned as American workers. Don’t take these rights for granted. Labor Day does speak of justice, and God cares about justice. May we honor Labor Day by blessing those who work, asking that their employment will provide them with a livable wage, a sense of fulfillment in their work, and the opportunity to be a blessing through their work. May we recognize the presence of God in the world of labor, so that we might live and work in ways that express the justice and love of God.
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union according to the U. S. Dept. of Labor. It was celebrated as a “workingmen’s holiday.” In 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country. Peter McGuire and Matthew McGuire thought of the idea of an annual Labor Day observance. The McGuire’s wanted to work toward better working conditions, giving workers a safe place to work with good wages and reasonable hours. And no more child labor. On June 28, 1894, Congress passed the act establishing the first Monday in September as a legal national federal holiday.
In the late 1800s the average American worker worked 12 hour days and seven day weeks in order to make a basic living. And even though many states prohibited it, children as young as 5 or 6 were often forced to work in mills, factories and mines. No one was guaranteed a minimum wage and working conditions were unsanitary and unsafe and there was no recourse for employees. Workers also received poor treatment by management. The original holiday was meant to handle a problem of long working hours and no time off.
For Christians, celebrating Labor Day should mean more than honoring the workers of America. It should be a time set aside to assess our priorities, both in the working arena and in our personal lives. For the Christian a day of rest began at Creation. God put man in the garden to till it and keep it. To do work. God made us to be productive and active in the care of creation. Since the Garden of Eden everyone has worked or has depended on someone else’s work for their survival. In 1774, John Newton wrote the song, “Safely Through Another Week.” Some of the words are: “Safely through another week, God has brought us on our way; Let us now a blessing seek, on approaching Sabbath Day. Day of all the week the best emblem of eternal rest. Day of all the week the best, emblem of eternal rest.”
As Christians, we should view our jobs as an opportunity to serve through perseverance and patience. Proverbs 14:23, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads to poverty.” Proverbs 10:4; “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” The Bible has much to say about the dignity of work, which helps us to see our labor as more than “just a job.” Studying at a university or changing diapers or volunteering at a soup kitchen is valued labor in the eyes of God. The Bible informs us that on the seventh day God rested from all His work. We all would do well to have a day during our week when we stop what we normally work at to reflect on God and the work He is doing through us. Sometimes we honor God not by doing more and more, but by God’s command in Mark 6:31. “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” The most important work of all, that does not seem like work, because it is simple and easy, and accomplishes the most important thing in life: getting connected to God.
The Bible teaches Jesus honored labor and the rights of the workers. In Luke 10:7, He said, “The laborer is worthy of his hire.” James 5 warns of God’s judgment upon employers who are rich and satisfy their every whim, while ignoring the needs of those who work for them. In this same passage, James says God hears the cry of the worker who is cheated or defrauded and He will judge. The Bible also says that God’s eyes are on the laborer who loafs on the job and doesn’t provide an honest day’s work. Although work is good, it can be quite toilsome and painful. Thomas Carlyle once wrote, “Yet, labor is life.”
Labor in itself is commendable and worthy of honor, but from God’s perspective, if a person goes through the daily grind and ignores Christ’s lordship, refuses God’s offer of grace and forgiveness, then all of what’s done, no matter how praise worthy it may seem is rejected of God. Work that delights the heart of God must come from a heart transformed by faith and renewed by the Spirit. God created humans on the sixth day, His last day of labor. Adam and Eve spent their first full day of being in God’s day of rest. They began with rest, not work. We start on Sunday, resting and worshiping, then we move to work, but it is work from rest not work to rest.
For Christians, Labor Day should afford us the opportunity for reflection on the Biblical command “that in all things we are to do all things to the glory of God.” One day a man asked Jesus about spiritual work. “What must we do to work the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent” (John 6: 28-29). Believe. Just, believe. Each day is a truly a gift from God the Creator and Sustainer of all life. Enjoy it and know that your labors are worthwhile. I Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain.” Joyce Meyer once said, “Everyday is a gift from God. Learn to focus on the Giver and enjoy the gift!” If you gather with friends and family for Labor Day and have a picnic. Remember, life wasn’t suppose to be a picnic. We were made for work and until Christ comes, that work is to His glory.
Psalm 118: 24, “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will be glad and rejoice in it.”
Milley Brewington is a guest columnist for The Sampson Independent.