What Does Labor Day Mean for Christians?

It’s time for one last round with those seersucker pants and that outdoor barbecue atmosphere. Before society as a whole embraces the fall climate of football and pumpkin everything, summer makes its final stand on Labor Day. We often look forward to this long weekend for last-second vacations or gatherings with friends and family, but is there anything else to glean from this holiday? Does Labor Day have any significance for Christians? Let’s look at a few points of interest for believers to consider.

The Importance of Work

One of the most popular themes in scripture is that of work. When God created Adam, one of the first things He did was assign Adam a job. The task of naming the animals may not seem as strenuous as your 9 to 5 job, but it was work nonetheless. Even after the introduction of woman, mankind was given the command to work the soil of the ground. As a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, work became an even more taxing operation. Though it may have become more difficult, we are still told that work is an important task.

No matter where you go in the Bible, work is valued. In many cases, it is a form of obedience or worship. When Noah built the ark, it was a sign of trusting God and believing that one day the rain would come (despite there never having been any before). That same trust was evident when Nehemiah oversaw the reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem.

“What if God hasn’t specifically called me to a certain task?” That’s a fair question, as almost none of us will ever receive clear instructions like those that Noah was given for the dimensions of the ark. The Israelites built the Tabernacle exactly according to the specifications of the Lord, but your job in insurance or marketing probably doesn’t easily compare on the same level of spiritual direction. The closest we can come to assurance that our career choices and work ethic are meeting God’s standards is by lining up our attitudes and practices with scripture and praying for direction.

One of the main reasons we do work is not to simply pass the time but because it enables us to provide for our loved ones and make a contribution to our communities, including the church. Even more important is that we perform to the best of our abilities. No matter what kind of job you have, the Bible tells us that we are to do the tasks given to us as well as we possibly can. That verse is found in Colossians 3:23 and it is written with slaves in mind. Imagine what that means for us as we work in cubicles!

The History of Labor Day

Now that we have a basic understanding of work in Christian terms, let’s look at the history of Labor Day. When you think about the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there is an incredible amount of innovation taking place. From the completion of the transcontinental railroad in the late 1860’s to the popularization of automobiles mere decades later, there were many exciting things happening, especially in big cities.

With this spectacular time of industry came a human cost. Children were working in factories and mines while their parents also endured some pretty tough standards in their own jobs. That’s where unions and better business practices stepped in. Among the many measures and perks that were labored for in the late 19th century was an official holiday for celebrating the achievements of workers everywhere. This movement began at the state level in places like Oregon and New York in the 1880’s and continued for nearly a decade before being declared a national holiday by President Grover Cleveland. This was only one of the many victories for working people over the course of decades, but the official holiday has lasted for over 120 years. Always held the first Monday in September, Labor Day gives a well deserved break to people across the country and allows us to light up the grill one more time before we say goodbye to summer.

What Does Labor Day Mean for Christians?

Rest vs. Laziness

As much as we value work as a society (and as believers), it’s important to remember that humans have limited capabilities. We cannot work ourselves 24/7 without damaging our relationships and health and hindering our potential for ministry growth. For whatever reason, Americans don’t like taking vacation days. Many think that doing so puts their employment in jeopardy while others just don’t want to pass up the opportunity to get ahead. There is a troubling notion in the workforce that to take time off is to be lazy. From bosses to entry level employees, some businesses give the impression that using vacation time and holidays for personal leisure is equal to saying that your job doesn’t matter to you. This is simply untrue.

On a Christian level, we need to recognize the difference between rest and laziness. The Bible condemns the latter several times in different contexts. Proverbs contains many references to those who are lazy, essentially saying that they will endure tougher times and be slaves in comparison to those who have discipline. In the New Testament we see the leaders of the early church condemning those who wanted to enjoy the fruits of others labor without contributing themselves. 2 Thessalonians 3 shows that there were those who refused to work and it was causing strife in the church. After all, it hurts the community when only some people are willing to work. Anyone who’s ever been in a church where the same handful of people are relied upon for every activity knows that it isn’t a healthy situation.

Rest is 100% healthy, though. It’s the reason we all enjoy getting a full night’s sleep. When we are willing to prioritize rest, we give ourselves the best opportunity to fully invest in the work we are doing. That’s why those of us who get to enjoy a break on Labor Day should take the time to enjoy it. Whether you have special events scheduled with your family or you’re just looking to take it easy, remember that there’s nothing wrong with rest. The creation account even endorses a day of taking it easy and commands it to be a holy day of rest.

On this Labor Day, feel free to not check those emails from work and enjoy the time that you have with your loved ones. To do so is both in the spirit of the holiday and supported by scripture.

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