“The worker is worthy of his wages.” – 1 Timothy 5:18b
Today is Labor Day, a day set aside in our nation to honor those who work for a living and whose productivity strengthens our nation.” As a Christian I believe it is appropriate to have such an observance for it affirms a core value of our culture. Work is certainly a core value for God. We know that because in the story of Creation we are told that God Himself worked. And we know from this passage in the New Testament that work is intended to be affirmed by paying someone the wages he has earned from his work. A worker should enjoy the fruit of his or her labor.
There is a definite ambivalence towards work in our culture. Work is a burden to many, a necessary evil to be endured until the weekend comes when we can work at our play. Many people believe that the highest aspiration of humanity should be to have enough so that work is entirely optional. We look askance at those who don’t plan to retire as if I playing golf and traveling for the rest of your life is a higher value than contributing to the economic well-being of nation. Being a workaholic is considered a mental defect, being a hardworker high praise–but we often blur the lines between the two.
People who work primarily with their minds are looked down upon by those who work with their hands–and vice versa. The cultural elite tend to view the “working class” as the ignorant requiring their paternal protection. Too many in the working class are working so that they can become part of the elite. Work has levels of “acceptability” and we tend to have preconceived notions of what work is “beneath us.”
The Bible teaches us much about work – the dignity of work, the value of work, and the purpose of our work. Here are some of the more prominent verses that we can consider:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.
Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.
He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them master craftsmen and designers.
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 6: 5-9
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. ;Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.
1 Thessalonians 2:9
Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
1 Thessalonians 4:11
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you,
2 Thessalonians 3:8
nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.
On this Labor Day remember this truth —
1. Work is part of the purpose of God for our lives.
2. Our ability to work is a gift from God and our work itself is a gift to God.
3. Work is the way that we help care for our world and its people, and to keep from being an undue burden to the neighbor whom we are called to love.
4. Work with eternity in mind.
(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn