The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, and was created by the labor movement to honor the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
I like a good holiday as much as the next person . . . and will take great pleasure in enjoying the festivities of the upcoming 3-day weekend. But as I contemplate the reason for the holiday – a tribute to men for their contribution toward the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country, I’m also saddened. This country’s strength, prosperity, and well-being are due to the loving hand of a merciful God . . . the very God who many in this country are working feverishly to ignore and, if it were possible, even eradicate.
The word “labor“, when studied in the spiritual sense, provides a sobering commentary for those who want to exclude God and take the glory for themselves.
“I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:9-11
“What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 2:22
“And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:4
“Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.” Ecclesiastes 5:15
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. The laborer‘s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on.” Proverbs 16:25-26
“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1
However, for followers of Jesus Christ, to “labor” means something entirely different . . . with rewards that far exceed anything this world could ever offer.
“Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.” Psalm 128:1-2
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” Philippians 1:21-22
“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1:28-29
“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3
“(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:10
Maybe this Labor Day, rather than “celebrating the work of our hands”, we should be celebrating the work of His hands and thanking Him for the wisdom, physical ability, and opportunity to work that He has provided each of us.