October 17, 2017

Labor Day plus One

John Mincy

I always have mixed emotions about Labor Day. One side of me feels bad about observing a day set aside historically by and for the unions. On the other hand, it comes at a great time of year and reminds Christians of the origin and dignity of work. Work has been a part of God’s plan for man from the beginning (Gen 2:15, 3:19). God spells the work week out clearly in the Law, “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work” (Ex 20:9).

He even tells us to work until the evening (Ps 104:23)! A wonderful aspect of God’s plan for man is that He gives to each a special work to do (Mk 13:34). No matter what our job, if it is God’s job it is just as valuable as anyone’s. His plan is for man to work for his living, and He looks at idleness as a problem to be dealt with by the local church (2 Thess 3:6-15).

Several purposes for work are mentioned in Scripture. We are to work so that we can give to the Lord’s work and thus bring honor to Him, “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10). Also, as mentioned in these verses, work is God’s means for us to meet our material needs. It is, however, misguided to work with our focus on getting rich (Prov 23:4). We are to work hard to meet our material needs and also to be able to help those who are in need (Eph 4:28).

Psalm 127:1 indicates that we can labor in vain, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” The picture is of a person living and working without looking to the Lord. All such work will never satisfy, and such was the situation of those to whom Isaiah ministered, “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?” (Isa 55:2). Years later Haggai preached to a people who had the same problem, “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes” (Hag 1:6). It is always discouraging to observe a man or women working hard but for all the wrong reasons and for this life only. Surely, labor is not in vain if it is in the Lord (1 Cor 15:58).

God reveals many results for godly labor. Pretty basic is the fact that, if we work, we can eat (Ps 128:2). On the other hand, if we don’t work we shouldn’t eat (2 Thess 3:10). Man is supposed to enjoy the good of all his labor (Ecl 3:9-14). One of the great benefits of working hard is that man can enjoy rest and sleep, “The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep” (Ecl 5:12). Paul writes, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (1 Thess 4:11-12). Working hard allows a proper Christian testimony and is God’s appointed means of being a productive member of society.

There is coming a day when the faithful Christian worker will be at rest and will receive eternal blessings for earthly work, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Rev 14:13). But, even now, when we are tired and perhaps discouraged there is a caring Savior who gives rest, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28).


John Mincy holds an MA and PhD from Bob Jones University. He served as a missionary pastor in Singapore and is now pastor emeritus of Heritage Baptist Church in Antioch, California.


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