One of my favorite national holidays is Labor Day – a special day off to honor the working class and extend a weekend to give people time to catch their breath. It closes the curtain on summer and welcomes autumn to end the summer heat. It means town parades, backyard barbecues with family and friends, and the last hurrah before school gets into full swing.
For me Labor Day creates a lot of nostalgia, going back into childhood. As a child growing up in Virginia, the day marked the end of summer freedom and the beginning of the school year. It was also the end of fun times with my dad, taking us to the swimming place (a freshwater mountain pool) and playing softball with me and my 5 brothers in our backyard. It meant mornings began earlier and nights got dark sooner.
My nostalgic memories of Labor Day also include adult years. My husband and I enjoyed Labor Day weekends for about 30 years with my spiritual parents at their lake cottage in the Poconos Mountains of PA. The cottage had to be sold several years ago. I often feel the longing to return to the quiet of that cottage, with the sun shining off the lake, the sound of motor boats, the wind in the sails of our sailboat, and the the feel of the floating dock as it rose and fell with the moving water caused by the wake of motor boats entering the cove. I miss our annual lobster dinner shared with close friends and family.
According to the history of Labor Day in Wikipedia, this day to honor the American workforce was proposed by either Matthew Maguire, a machinist, who served as secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York and/or by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor, in May 1882, influenced by the annual labor festival held in Toronto, Canada.
Oregon had the first official state Labor Day, followed by 30 other states. Then in 1894, Congress, under President Grover Cleveland, proclaimed the first Monday of September as the official national Labor Day.
I think that God would approve of the original intent of Labor Day, because He approves of labor. When He created the world and placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He gave them work to do:
Gen.1:28 “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
That’s a pretty big job! And it was assigned to Adam and Eve and their offspring. He first told them to be fruitful (i.e., have lots of children), then to have dominion over everything that moves on the earth. Taking care of the earth involves a community effort, as it does today.
It really bothers me when David and I go for a walk on one of our local community streets and find trash that someone has left behind along the road or in the nearby creek or river. God’s creation deserves our care.
Gen. 2:8-9 “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Gen. 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
God instituted the work ethic. He approves of the labor force. There are many verses in Scripture that deal with the benefits of honest labor, in contrast to the fruit that comes from laziness or putting your labor into the wrong things.
- Labor That Honors God
Psalm 128:2 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
Isaiah 3:10 “Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.”
- Fruitless Labor
Psalm 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
Isaiah 55:2 “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”
- Abusive Force on Laborers
Habakkuk 2:12-13 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
- Results of Laziness
2 Thess. 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ ”
Prov. 12:24 “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.”
- Working for God Pays Off
1 Cor. 15:8 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
I was raised with a “hard work pays off” ethic: that if I want something badly enough, I had to be willing to do the work it takes to get it; that I should not expect something for nothing; that if I take care of what I have it will last longer; that work is honorable; and that I should share with those who are willing to work, but are less fortunate with skills or have less opportunity than I have.
I have learned that in both temporal and spiritual labor, anything done to bring glory to my Heavenly Father is not done in vain, but I will see the rewards either in this life or in the life to come.
Happy Labor Day! May the Lord reward you as you seek to honor Him with the work of your hands.
©2012, Marcy Alves
- Labor Day: The Blessing and the Curse of it all (eagleviews.org)