"Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28 NLT
Americans place a high value on what we do for a living. When we meet someone new, we ask them their name and what they do. So much of our identity is wrapped up in our vocation.
I started working for my father when I was 14. He owned several car washes, and they needed to be cleaned regularly. The following summer, I worked in his HVAC business and continued cleaning the car washes. I didn’t enjoy the work, but I certainly enjoyed the money he paid me. In high school, I got my first real job working as an “ink monkey” in the print shop of the local newspaper. I loved working at the newspaper and eventually worked my way up to the graphics department, and I became a feature writer. I found joy in completing a job well done. Work was not a burden for me and helped keep me out of trouble. In college, I worked at a small Christian radio station and graduated with a communications degree. My work as a teenager and college student gave me vocational experience and direction, eventually leading to a ministry in Ethiopia at a media center. I love the work that I get to do.
Work was intended by God to be a blessing for humanity. Instead, Adam’s sin added trouble to our labor. Still, in Ecclesiastes, we read that joy in our work is a blessing from God.
During the height of the Industrial Revolution, in the late 1800s, the US economy shifted from agriculture to industry. This shift brought many benefits, but it also brought difficulties. It was common for laborers to work six days a week for 10 to 16 hours per day. Earning much less than adults. Children aged 5 or 6 could work in factories, mills, and mines. Working conditions could be unsafe. Access to fresh air and adequate sanitation was often limited.
Harsh working conditions increased labor union membership, and workers began organizing for better hours and pay. Rallies and strikes sometimes turned violent, but public opinion shifted toward workers. By the end of the 19th century, Labor Day had become a national holiday. Less than a decade later, the American Federation of Labor and the Federal Council of Churches announced Labor Sunday as an official addition to the church calendar.
As Christians, it is right to celebrate labor and laborers. We can be thankful for the improvements in work conditions and be inspired to continue to make improvements. We should praise God’s provision through our labor, and for many, we celebrate the joy that work can bring.
For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus paid for our sins and opened the door for fellowship with God. Faith in His completed work brings us salvation. We don’t have to work for God’s love. The work that God requires of us is to believe in the One He has sent. Then, we can rest in Him, knowing that He will complete the work that He has begun in us.
- If we can’t earn our salvation by what we do (Ephesians 2:8,9), then what is our motivation for working hard? (1 Corinthians 10:31).
- How does working hard with excellence honor God?
8 Prayers for Labor Day
For some, Labor Day is only significant because it means we get a three-day weekend. While that is absolutely something to celebrate, it’s helpful to understand its significance. This holiday was established by the labor movement that brought about many workplace reforms, including more livable wages and safer working conditions. Considering most of us benefit from these reforms, it is certainly something we should be thankful for! But how does this relate to us as believers in Christ? God gave the mandate in Genesis for us to be co-laborers with God Himself through our work. However, sin has been brought into the workforce because of the Fall. Within our country, many still struggle, especially amidst current inflation. As believers, we pray with God’s heart to see His excellent design reinstated in our world. Today we celebrate what has already been done while praying for God’s continued work in our world! To help you celebrate and dedicate your work to God this holiday weekend, we have provided some Scripture-focused prayers for you to meditate on.