“Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20:9-10 NRSV)
Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 and is largely recognized as the unofficial end of summer. Celebrated each year on the first Monday in September, on Labor Day we honor the working men and women of these United States.
Our Lutheran understanding of our labors here on earth is that through our vocations, we are called to serve and bring glory to God, whether we are a truck driver, nurse, teacher, farmer, or stay-at-home parent, whatever our calling happens to be. Our work, and our ability to work and provide for our families, are gifts from God, and it shall all be done for God’s glory.
We have a strong “work ethic” in this country and we, as a society, give thanks for those who produce, build, and protect. However, too often we underappreciate those who create beauty in the world, those who create from the imagination, and work with ideas in the abstract. Vocations such as actors, writers, architects, florists, photographers, and philosophers come to mind, although there are many others.
Our first image of God in Genesis is of a God who creates by God’s word, a world of beauty and wonder out of nothing. We know that Jesus worked in his earthy father’s trade as a carpenter (Mark 6:3), and yet, the last few years of his life, he was essentially unemployed as he traveled the countryside healing, preaching, and teaching about the kingdom of heaven. Still, we know that—even apart from the cross—Jesus’ thoughts and words about how we are to live in relationship with others in the world, continue to change lives even today.
This Labor Day weekend, let us give thanks for all who labor in this world to make it a better place to live, whether they work primarily with their hands, their words, or their minds. Likewise, each of us has a calling to fulfill. Let us also pray for those who are unemployed or who work in a job that does not pay a living wage, that they may find work that both sustains them and enriches their lives.
And finally, as Christians, let us bring glory to God through our work and share our blessings with those in need. But let us also find time to rest, because God knows that we need time to refresh and renew our spirit for the tasks before us.
Happy Labor Day everyone and blessings on your journey,