Monday is “Labor Day”! Why am I so excited about a holiday really called, “Work Day”? Is it because we’ll BBQ, hang-out with family and friends, and do pretty much nothing as we take a day “off” work? OK, so let me get this straight, the holiday is called “LABOR” Day, but we DON’T have to go to work. That makes no sense to me. If we are to spend the day partying, BBQ’ing, and hanging-out, taking the day OFF work, shouldn’t it be called “Do Nothing Day” or “Take a Day Off Day” or “Everyone Give Birth Day”? I’m sure the idea of all women getting together and having babies at the same time isn’t a popular idea and I understand why.
But the name “Labor Day” is confusing…unless you know the context in which the holiday originated.
The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. It became a federal holiday in 1894, when, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. MarshalsPullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with the labor movement as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress The September date was chosen as Cleveland was concerned that aligning an American labor holiday with existing international May Day celebrationsHaymarket Affair.All 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday. during the unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. would stir up negative emotions linked to the the Haymarket Affair.
Enough history. The holiday was made in remembrance of and for those who were laboring at the time and had experienced resistance and had now come to reconciliation with the U.S. states. It is a holiday in their honor. Maybe you never knew the significance of Labor Day and its origination.
Now, I know what we think of when we think of “labor.” We think of working at our place of employment. We think of cutting the grass or chasing our kids in Wal-Mart. We think of communicating with people we don’t like, etc. For the most part, when we think of “labor,” we think of something negative or something we dread.
Now when we think of spiritual labor (not world labor, like your job), we think of serving others, feeding the homeless, clothing children, providing ministry programs at church to enhance and elicit learning. We think of counseling others or playing in the worship band or being on a leadership team.
When we think of spiritual labor, we tend to attach to the work that makes us feel good inside, important, satisfied. And when we think of worldly labor, we tend to attach to the work that makes us feel negative, inconvenient, and a pain in the rear-end to do.
For example, would you consider getting off the couch today, going outside in the heat/cold and cutting your lawn; would you consider that worldly labor (ugh) or spiritual labor (hooray)? Here’s another one, would you consider washing the dishes at your home after all your guests have left; is that worldly labor or spiritual labor? What about leading a Bible study on Sunday mornings? Would you consider that worldly labor or spiritual labor?
Well, the first two (cutting the grass and washing the dishes) would usually be considered worldly labor wouldn’t they? And the last one (leading the Bible study) would be considered by most a spiritual labor. So what is it that separates “worldly labor” and “spiritual labor”?
Let’s first look at “spiritual labor.” What are the elements of spiritual labor? Well, let’s look at the elements first. There’s you, the Holy Spirit, and the task at hand. So we have you (a person) and the Holy Spirit (another person) and something that is going to get done or needs to be done (task). Simple enough, yes?
Now, what makes “spiritual labor” spiritual? Is it the involvement of you? No. Is it the involvement of a task (any task)? No. Is it the involvement of the Holy Spirit? Yes. OK, so the Holy Spirit is the key to identifying “spiritual labor” as opposed to “worldly labor.” So you’re volunteering in a Bible study, worship, a children’s program, or youth program and we are in agreement that this is “spiritual labor” because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. You’re teaching principles taught by God’s Word and relaying the message of Christ in those tasks.
But what about “worldly labor”? What about cutting the grass, doing the dishes, wiping hineys, pumping gas, waiting tables, pouring coffee, or mopping floors? So what are the elements of “worldly” labor performed by a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ? There’s you, the Holy Spirit, and the task at hand. So we have you (a person) and the Holy Spirit (another person) and something that is going to get done or needs to be done (task).
Does this sound familiar? The elements of what we call “worldly labor” and “spiritual labor” are the same. You, the Holy Spirit, and the task. In the “spiritual” labor, we teach principles and the life of Christ. Do we not do that in our “worldly” labor? Do we not teach principles, both, verbally and by example while we work in the world? If not, why? Jesus commands us to “go into all the world” a make disciples…even in your “worldly” labor, especially in your worldly labor. All of Jesus’ work and ministry was done outside the church because the church did not yet exist!
Could it be…bare with me and follow me here…could it be that the reason we feel negative about “worldly” labor is that we have failed to see the elements involved, especially that of the Holy Spirit, and have failed to utilize this labor as daily opportunities to possibly be the only authentic representation of Jesus Christ the people around us may ever see or personally encounter? Could it be we have been perceiving “labor” as a curse instead of as good, lifechanging in ourselves and the lives of others, and opportunities to radiate Christ from every action, every task, every challenge?
I dare to wonder if we passionately lived for Jesus Christ in the worldly marketplace like we do when serving in a “church” minsitry, how passionately seekers would long to experience what you and I experience.
When you begin your next “worldly” labor, remember the elements (you, the Holy Spirit, and the task at hand) and see the labor as an opportunity to imitate and share Jesus Christ unashamed. It may save the life of someone watching.
Heavenly Father, we praise your holy name and give you glory upon glory. Thank You for the life and labor you’ve given each one of us today. Forgive us for grudgingly laboring over the gifts of labors you’ve given us for Your purposes and Your glory. Forgive us for neglecting the opportunities to live out-loud for the sake of the lost. Use us today, through Your Holy Spirit, to radiate Your Son Jesus in everything we say, everything we do, and everything we put our hands to do. May others see Jesus Christ in their workplace and may You see Your Son in the quiet places we labor as well. We long to please You, Lord. In Your Son, Jesus’, Holy name I pray. Amen.