Monday was Labor Day. It was only two days ago, yet it seems like an eon. I think because Labor Day is such a demarcation from the end of summer and the beginning of fall scheduling that once it happens we are thrust forward into the world of work and productivity. The carefree days of vacation and summer are a distant memory.
The history of Labor day goes back to the middle to the Second Industrial Revolution around the 1880's. Its purpose was to celebrate the worker: "It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." According to the Department of Labor, the first Labor Day celebration was held Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City by the Central Labor Union. Other municipalities and then states followed suit with celebrations first as a movement, then through legislation. It wasn't until 1894 that Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September a legal holiday. (www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history)
Last Friday, StoryCorps shared an interview with two retired sanitation workers from NYC. Click here to watch the interview as a cartoon. What I loved about it was their attitude- the gentlemen took pride in their work. In doing so, they were respected and part of the community.
This past Sunday a fellow elder from our church shared his thoughts about work. He reflected on how God is a worker, we are in His image (also a worker) and that we need to reflect that image by having integrity, doing our best and realizing that although work may be hard, God is with us.
Yesterday morning, a dear friend shared with me her daily Bible reading. In the passage it spoke of keeping at the work that God has called you. Don't give up. (See below)
All these ideas have me thinking. What does God say about our labor? Our human side says that work is a four-letter word. And sometimes it is.
Yet God did work and it was sacred. From the beginning of the Bible, God created- bringing something into existence. The act of doing so is not passive but active. It is work. Adam and Eve did work, before and after the fall. They were to name the created beings and to care for them. After the fall, work became hard- the sweat of one's brow. But throughout the Bible, even with the tough work, God was there for us.
In the book of Proverbs, the Hebrew wisdom speaks of work as something which we can commit back to God (Proverbs 16: 3) and something of which we need to take care and be diligent. (Proverbs 22:29) The wisdom is that work comes from God, it is a gift (both the skill/talent and the opportunity) that we would be wise to keep in its proper place: strive for the best, learn and improve your skill/condition/understanding yet realize that it all belongs to God and to offer what we have (the skill/talent and opportunity) back to Him.
One of my favorite verses is from Colossians: "whatever the task, work heartily as if serving the Lord." I have to remember that especially when I find myself getting too caught up in work, in the expectations of others or in my own expectations. Whatever I am doing, I need to remember that I am not doing it for my ego, nor for someone else's benefit but for God. When I keep that perspective, it takes the pressure over worrying if I can please that person or if I am doing it right. For we all know of bosses or people who are just never satisfied or happy with whatever we have done. For some, it goes beyond being a perfectionist. It is an unrealistic expectation that is never enough.
So two days after Labor Day it is a good reminder that I need to focus on my work, whatever the work may be: domestic, volunteer commitments, professional. My attitude needs to shift, so that whatever I am doing, I will act as if the results were going directly to God. There is no distinction between my spiritual and secular life- it all is spiritual and it all is a reflection of my faith in God. If I can trust Him with matters of the heart (the decision to believe in Him) then I can trust Him with the mundane matters of what I do- my vocation, profession, hobbies, career, job. I can trust Him with the every day labors of my life.
What about you? What is your work? How do you feel about it? Do you have enough time in the day to do it? Not enough? Do you enjoy your work? Or, is it, well, work (the four-letter variety)? Do you need to step back and think about your labor? Have you celebrated the gifts/talents and opportunities that you have?
So keep at your work, this faith and love rooted in Christ, exactly as I set it out for you. It’s as sound as the day you first heard it from me. Guard this precious thing placed in your custody by the Holy Spirit who works in us. 2 Timothy 1:13-14 MSG