Labor Day is an interesting holiday because what we associate it with is the end of summer and the beginning of school, two things that for many people are not enjoyable, but Labor Day began as a day to celebrate work. It seems strange to have a holiday to celebrate work because for many of us work is not something we celebrate. In fact, work for many of us is just a necessary evil or one of those four letter words we would rather purge from our vocabulary, but work should not be seen as something evil but rather as something good and honored because we were created to work.
If we go back to the story of creation in Genesis 1 we see that for six days God worked. God worked in the heavens and created the stars and planets. God worked on the earth and created the land and the seas. God became a gardener and planted grass and trees and all kinds of plants. God then worked and gave birth to all kinds of birds and fish and animals to fill the oceans, fields and sky. For six days God worked and God worked hard enough that on the seventh day God chose to not work but rest. God not only worked but he loved his work because at the end of each day God would look at what he did and say this is good. When we love what we do, then at the end of our work there is a sense of joy and satisfaction where we can look at all we have done and call it good.
So God worked, God worked hard and God enjoyed His work and then God created us and placed us in the world that he made What makes us unique in all of creation is that we were created in the image of God. Being children of God, we were created to work and to work hard to enjoy the work God has for us to do. That we were created to work is made clean when the first thing God did with his children was to put them in the garden to work, Genesis 2:15
So work is a fundamental part of who we are. We were created to be productive and many times throughout the Bible God lifts up the virtues of hard work. The book of Proverbs is filled with sayings that remind us that hard work is honored and blessed by God. Look at Proverbs 10:4-5, 31:15-19 and 28-29
Adam and Eve passed on the value and importance of work to their children, look at Genesis 4:2b – Now Able was a keeper of sheep and Cain a tiller of the ground. Cain and Able had jobs and what we see from them is that from the very beginning there was a division of labor so that people could do the work that they enjoyed. We don’t know why Able kept the sheep and Cain tilled the ground but I like to think it was because Able was drawn to animals from a young age and Cain had a green thumb.
While we were created to work and work hard and enjoy the work we do, the reality is that not all work will be enjoyable to us. I am always amazed that there are some people who find certain kinds of work enjoyable. For example, we have a group of ladies who love to sew and the work they produce is simply amazing. Our prayer quilt ministry is fabulous and our Healthy Steps group which help make lap robes and pray shawls are filled with many gifted people who love to sew and knit and work with their hands. They actually find pleasure in this work which I don’t understand because when I try to thread a needle in order to try and sew a button on a shirt I get stressed out, frustrated and usually just give up. Sewing is a burden to me, but for others it’s a joy that hardly seems like work
We have some here who love to cook and they will be in the kitchen throughout this football season cooking and de-boning countless turkeys and while they will be working hard they will also be enjoying what they do. Other people would find that work a burden. For whatever reason, I love to wash dishes. It was one of my first jobs and in every church I have served I eventually drift toward that job in the kitchen not because I want to seen as some kind of true servant doing the work no else wants to do but because I honestly enjoy washing dishes more than any other job in the kitchen. And no I am not interested in coming to your home to wash dishes.
The church I served in Lewisburg did a big Apple Dumpling sale every fall and all the ladies of the church would come together and make the dough, roll it out and make the dumplings. They were having a great time and they loved doing it and so they invited me to make some with them. I worked on one dumpling and like threading a needle, I found it one of the more frustrating experiences of my life. I couldn’t get the dough to roll out just right so I would start over again and again and all the ladies were telling me I couldn’t do that because the more you roll out the dough the tougher it would be, but it never looked good and I really didn’t enjoy it and I was so glad when I finished that one dumpling because it meant I could go back and wash all the pots and pans. At our football dinners (which start this Friday!) I would rather wash dishes than do anything else and when I am done and the dish washing area is all clean I can step back and call it all good.
There are jobs that we love to do and when we do it, it hardly seems like work. For some people it is to work in the garden and when you are out cutting grass, pulling weeds or tending to the flowers or vegetables you are in your element and loving life. My Dad loves to do woodworking projects so I tried my hand at it once in high school. I bought an antique mirror that I was going to take apart, strip off the paint and refinish it I took it apart but stripping paint of paint was not easy and it required patience that I didn’t have and so when my parents moved out of that house many years later, all the pieces of mirror still had bits and pieces of paint on them and they were all thrown away.
We were all created to work and to enjoy the work we do but we weren’t all created to do the same job because we don’t find all work enjoyable. The truly blessed people are those who are able to take what they love to do and do it for their entire lives. My sister Carrie is like that. Carrie knew from the time she was a little girl that she wanted to be a children’s librarian and other than an after school job in High School working at McDonalds, Carrie has always worked in a library and she loves her work. I’ve talked to people recently who really don’t want to retire because they love what they do – why should they retire. When we tap into that God given gift of work and find what God created us to do and then find a way to do it with our lives – it is a true blessing, but the reality is that for many of us work is that not like that.
For many people work truly is a four letter word. 50% of people are not satisfied with their jobs. Many people today are under-employed meaning they aren’t working up to their potential and earning what they need because of the job market. Other people are working in a job just to make ends meet and pay the bills and they really aren’t finding any meaning or joy in what they do. Some people are working in jobs that are killing them because so much is being demanded and the work place is unhealthy or even hostile. While we were created by God to work not all work is Godly and certainly not all work environments are a blessing and if you are in that situation, it is a difficult place to be.
I wish the answer could be as easy as telling people to quit their jobs and find work that is enjoyable, but it isn’t. That is a radical step that many people have chosen to take at times but if you are unhappy in your job today please don’t quit and tell people that I told you to do it. Quitting our job is often not the answer, but there are some things we can do to make work more of a blessing than a curse. In Colossians 3:23 it says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord. It doesn’t say we will love all our work but that we are to put our entire heart into our work and look at it as service to God.
We can take any job and any situation and use it as an opportunity to serve God. We may not enjoy what we are doing but we can look for ways God can use us where we are. The summer I worked in Yellowstone national park I never enjoyed the work I did. I was constantly trying to find a new job that I would somehow enjoy more and all that happened was that I was miserable in every job I had. I finally gave up the search for the perfect job and looked at how I could accomplish what God wanted for me in the job I had. I started looking at the people I worked with and found ways to serve them. I suddenly realized that one woman I worked with was really hurting in her life and I had the opportunity to simply reflect the love of God to her. A manger I had was always pushing herself and God showed me ways to be a blessing to her. When the work we do is a burden we need to look at the blessings God is making available to us in the opportunities we have with the people around us.
In every work situation we are called to treat people with value, worth and respect and sometimes it can be our attitude that can change a work situation. In Ephesians we find instruction given to slaves and masters and while the work of a slave was not a blessing, the instruction God gave wasn’t to stop working or to revolt but to have a different attitude. Ephesians 6:5-9.
In every job, we can work hard, give more what than is asked of us and treat people with respect. If we are the boss or a manager of people there is a special burden on us to treat others with value because we have been given positions of power and authority and God will hold us accountable on how we use them.
The other thing we can do in every work situation that we find difficult or a burden is to pray. Yes, we can pray for a new job, but we can also pray for those we work with and pray for those who are a problem. Prayer can move the hand of God but prayer can also change us so that our attitudes change right where we are.
If you are in a bad work situation and don’t have a way out, let me offer one other suggestion, in your time off from work, find some kind of work that you love to do and do it with all your heart. Serve in the church or community in some kind of work that will bring you joy and meaning and purpose so that you can experience God’s blessing that comes with work. If you love to cook, help at our football dinners which start on Friday. If you love to bake, make a pie or cake for the dinner. If you love to wash dishes, there is always room for more. If you love to sew, join the quilting group. If you love to work with clothing, volunteer at the faithcentre where there are mountains of clothes to sort. If you love to work with animals, volunteer at paws or walk dogs for your neighbors. Find what you love to do and do it so that when you step into the work environments that are difficult you have the energy and faith to keep going.
Work is a blessing of God because we were created in the image of God who found joy in work. If you are not experiencing joy in your work, then make this Labor Day a time to discover what God created you to do. Discover what you love to do and find ways to do it as an act of service for the community. If you love what you are doing and if you get to the end of each day satisfied with your work and able to call it all good – then take this labor day to acknowledge this gift and blessing of God and give thanks.
Happy Labor Day.
1. Read the story of creation (Genesis 1) and identify all the ways that God worked.
• What aspects of God’s work in creation do you find intriguing?
• How can you tap into that work in the world today?
2. Read these Proverbs which talk about the value of work:
• 6:6-11, 10:4-5, 12:14, 24, 14:23, 18:9, 20:4,
• 22:29, 24:30-34, 26:14-15, 28:19, 31:13-31
3. How can you make your work (job) a better experience for those around you who might find it a burden? Identify one person that you can encourage in their work this week and then work at it.
4. If you don’t enjoy your job, consider what it means to work as if you are working for the Lord. Colossians 3:23
• What can you do in your work to be a blessing to your boss and co-workers?
• What prayer needs to be offered up this week for your work place?
• What volunteer work can you provide during the week to give your life added meaning, purpose and joy?
5. Not all the work God calls us to do is for a paycheck. What work do you need to do in order to be a blessing to God and others? What work will bring God’s blessing into your life?
Faith Church has many opportunities for work and service. We invite you to work in the church in ways that will be a blessing to you and others. Stop at the connection table or talk with Cassie Marsh-Caldwell to find ways to get to work.