Friday, September 2, 2011
This weekend we celebrate Labor Day. The first Labor Day was held in New York City on September 5, 1882. In 1894 the US Congress named the first Monday of September as the official date that Labor Day would be recognized in DC and the US territories. The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement. Today the holiday is primarily seen as an end of summer celebration. (Thanks to the Department of Labor website for this helpful historical summary!)
But what does God have to say about Labor?
First, labor is a gift of God and was part of God’s original plan for humanity. Before the fall, work existed! In Genesis we read, “The Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (2.15) As we will learn on Sunday, work is not a four letter word.
Labor, however, like everything else, became corrupted after the fall. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat of the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground;” (Genesis 3.17-19a).
Our work, however, can be used to bring glory to God. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3.17)
I hope you enjoy your day off on Labor Day. More than that I hope you enjoy and give thanks to God for giving your hands work to do. In all we do in offices, classrooms, or in the open fields may we do it as if we are doing it to the Lord.
Lord God, we give you thanks for the work you have given us to do. May we treat our customers, students, co-workers and teachers as if they are you. In Christ’s name. Amen.