Giving ‘Labor Day’ Some Meaning

Posted on September 5, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Government | Tags: , , , , , , |

Platypus: illustration from John Gould's The m...

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Labor Day, the day for being lazy. How did this day come about anyway? At some point, someone had to work so that we could do nothing all day and somehow call it ‘Labor Day.’

Though it was already recognized by many states in 1894 when it became a national holiday, Labor Day was actually a political move. President Grover Cleveland had to make up for having the worst name in the history of US Presidents by giving the public a day off. Actually, a few days after the Pullman Strike erupted in which he sent in US Marshalls to suppress picketing riots, President Cleveland and Congress wanted to make sure the government and the labor unions were on good terms. Instead of recognizing International Worker’s Day, which had somewhat of a negative connotation after the Haymarket Affair, Grover picked a day many unions already recognized as a day to celebrate the contributions of workers. Brings a whole new meaning to ‘Labor’ Day, huh?

So why does the Christian care? Well, for a number of reasons really, but I started to think about how work today has such a negative connotation. If you log on to Facebook on Sunday night or Monday morning, how many friends are complaining about going to work the next day? But is work really a bad thing?

When God created Adam, the Bible tells us he placed him in the Garden of Eden “to work it and take care of it” (Gen 2:15).  Interestingly, this was before Eve came along. Before God gave man a partner, He gave man something to do, a purpose for living. Work.

Some may recall one of the commandments is to keep the Sabbath holy, but there is more to that commandment. God actually gave this commandment before all classics like no murdering, stealing, or adultery, so it was probably pretty important. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh days is a Sabbath to the Lord your God…For six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day” (Ex 20:8-11a). I would argue that the commandment is just as much commanding us to work as it commands us to rest. Not surprisingly, God connects the idea of working with eating (2 Thes 3:10), wealth (Prov 10:4), and stature (Prov 10:26, Prov 18:9).

Why do we work? Because God does. In working, God reveals His nature to us. He made all of creation in six days, and if you stop and think about just one aspect of His creations whether it is DNA, the feathers on a peacock, or the Milky Way (not candy), it doesn’t look like He did any of it half-heartedly, except maybe the platypus. He enjoyed Himself and took pride in His work, but also understood that sometimes, you need to recharge and take time to reflect on what is important.

So this Labor Day take time to keep true meaning of Labor Day – start a strike in which thousands of dollars of property is destroyed and dozens of people are injured. On second thought, perhaps just use it as a day to reflect on the awesome responsibility and blessing God has provided us: work.


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