This weekend is Labor Day weekend in the United States because the first Monday in September is a federal holiday. Since it is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day, this tradition goes back a long way. Like most of our holidays, Labor Day has taken on all kinds of unrelated meanings. At one time it was the last day you could wear white or seersucker and be in style. Many consider Labor Day to be the unofficial end of summer. Workers often take their vacations to end on Labor Day.
Biblically there is a lot to support the emphasis on labor. The Old Testament is full of stories and characters who demonstrated an incredible willingness to work. Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1:17 – 2:18 talked of his labors and what they taught him. Nehemiah (4:16-21) talked about how hard the Jews worked to rebuild the walls in the face of enormous opposition. Noah’s building of the ark and Moses’ long journey to the promised land are examples of hard work. Paul gave instructions in 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 for Christians to work with their own hands and be independent.
Beyond that, the Bible condemns laziness. Proverbs contains multiple charges for us to be active in labor (See Proverbs 6:9-11 and 26:16-17). In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul told Christians that if someone will not work, they should also not eat. God has told us that physical labor is the responsibility of all humans, but equally important is spiritual labor.
Romans 2:5-11 tells us that we must work for good no matter who we are because only doers of God’s instructions will be justified. And what are doers? Matthew 25:33-40 tells us that it is those who feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, take in the strangers, cloth the naked, visit the sick and visit those who are in prison. When we engage in such actions, we build and demonstrate our faith. James 2:14-20 points out that just having faith doesn’t meet needs and doesn’t provide salvation. James wrote that faith without works is dead.
God intended for us to be active and involved. Genesis 2:15 says, “God took the man and put him into the garden to dress it and keep it.” We are incomplete if we don’t work, be active, and complete what we were created to do both physically and spiritually. On Labor Day Weekend let’s celebrate the fact that we can work with our hands, be creative, worship God, and enjoy serving God and others in ways that bring glory to our Creator.
— John N. Clayton © 2019