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Historically, Labor Day was instituted to pay tribute to the “working class people” in America for their contributions to the prosperity and well-being of our nation. It was meant to symbolize the “rest” workers in America needed from the hazardous working conditions in the 1800s. Labor Day, officially declared a national holiday during the administration of President Grover Cleveland in 1894, is meant to be a day of rest to recharge for the work ahead. According to historian Tandy Shermer, Labor Day falls on the first Monday of September each year because of America’s Christian heritage. At the time Labor Day was instituted, most of the population in America was Christian. Since they already observed Sunday as a day of rest, extending that rest by celebrating Labor Day on Monday made good sense.

Work is honorable. As creatures made in the image of God, we are to reflect His nature. God worked six days and rested on the seventh day, so we must work and take rest from our labor regularly. As we celebrate this Labor Day, I want to draw your attention to a passage of Scripture in Ephesians 4:28 to cast a Christian perspective on the dignity of our labor. We read, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” This verse points to a biblical view of work.

First, we must labor gainfully. “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor.” God’s word encourages us to work with our hands to support ourselves and our families. Stealing, defrauding others in any way, or depending on the government for sustenance when we are able-bodied to work is unworthy of a Christian. God has designed work as the primary means of providing for our needs (1 Tim. 5:18). The apostle Paul wrote, “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). He practiced what he preached. “For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow” (2 Thess. 3:7–9).

Second, we must labor respectfully. “Working with his hands what is good.” Not every work is “good” and worthy of a Christian. We must engage in honorable, upright, beneficial, and helpful work. Robbing a bank, selling drugs, or engaging in human trafficking is prohibited. Engaging in jobs that exploit people economically or encourage destructive or sinful lifestyles must be avoided. For instance, it is not salutary for a Christian to run a liquor store because of the possibility of putting people in danger. Christians must avoid work that contradicts God’s Word, violates one’s conscience, or harms others.

Third, we must labor purposefully. “…that he may have something to give him who has need.” God’s design for His people is to work to provide for themselves and help those in need. God is delighted when we see beyond ourselves and help others with the fruit of our labor. The church in Macedonia was willing to help the poor in Jerusalem, even though they were going through much affliction and poverty. How so? Because they gave themselves to God first, they could see beyond their needs and help the poor in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:1–4).

On this Labor Day, I pray that you will take the rest you need from your labor and go to work with a new perspective. Work gainfully, respectfully, and purposefully so your work will not be in vain.


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