Friday, August 31, 2018
Labor Day marks a subtle shift in multiple aspects of most everyone’s life. Vacations have drawn to a close as the summer sun moves slowly southward. Schools are back in session after earnest shopping for clothes and supplies. Kids’ unaccustomed early rising is followed by piles of homework and a better organized routine for parents. Daily traffic volume changes with the back-to-school schedule. Labor Day may also mean an intensified church schedule as programs get back in gear.
Over 100 years ago, leaders of the Labor Movement organized huge parades to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold” in the words of John McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor.
According to the Department of Labor, the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City and planned by the Central Labor Union. They held a second Labor Day holiday a year later on September 5, 1883. In 1884, the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday.
By 1894, 29 states had passed laws observing Labor Day as a state holiday. That year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday. In 1909, a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention designated the Sunday preceding Labor Day as Labor Sunday dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.
Work and workers in the Bible have a both a negative and positive aspect:
The thrill of harvest contrasted with the waning deliverance from impending attack and deportation is outlined in Jeremiah 8:20. “The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!”
The futility of working only for food is mentioned in Ecclesiastes 6:7. “All the labor of man is for his mouth, And yet the soul is not satisfied.”
Employment pressures can point us to Christ who invited, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
Working for salvation is futile and forbidden:
- Ephesians 2:8, 9 declares, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (emphasis added)
- Titus 3:4, 5 adds, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit…”
- Romans 4:5 also indicates that salvation is expressly not a result of works. “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…”
- The work of Christ is alone able to save. “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19:31)
Positively, the works within salvation are carefully noted and rewarded. “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Hebrews 6:10).
Our positive efforts done out of gratitude will linger for time and eternity. The final book of the Bible summarizes all believers’ labor days. “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” (Revelation 14:13)
It is best when we work for the Lord since we can fully retire in Heaven forever because of His finished work.
This was originally posted in September 2009, but its insights and message are timeless, so we are sharing it again.