LABOR DAY & the Kingdom Work Ethic

The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. It became an official American holiday in 1894. Labor Day celebrations were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit corps of the trade and labor organizations," followed by a festival for the workers and their families.

America’s vital labor force added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known. Labor Day is an opportunity for Americans to celebrate their diverse talents and the benefits of a capitalist society. The nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — namely, the American worker. In our nation, the holiday is marked in several ways: All government offices are shut down, schools are closed, and most employees receive the day off from work. Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer including picnics, boating, sporting events, and other outdoor activities.

As a laborer in the Kingdom of God, we also have high standards and goals to uphold. The apostle Paul exhorts workers in Colossians 3:23, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Our work ethic is forged in God’s Word, and as Christians, we are on display for the whole world to view. Paul often spoke of his “labors” as he rebutted his opponents about supporting himself, or while praising a church-plant for their "labor of love."

In Ephesians 4:28 he writes to the church regarding work saying, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” I Corinthians 3:9 tells us “we are God’s fellow workers.” Paul referred to his own service to his beloved children as “being poured out as a drink offering” and was glad for it. Our biblical work ethic is the backbone of the success this country has enjoyed for over 200 years.

Our Lord Jesus told the crowd who followed him to Capernaum, saying, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” Jesus was instructing them to work for eternal benefits and Kingdom purposes (Matthew 6:33). When we labor for God, it is not burdensome. He tells us in Matthew 11:30 that, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The writer of Hebrews instructs us in verses 10-12 to be confident of the blessing we will receive as we serve the Body of Christ - “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Jesus Himself commends the church at Ephesus, in Revelation 2:2, saying, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil…” Finally, in Revelation 14:13, the apostle John writes these words from heaven, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on…that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”

After Jesus met the woman at the well in Samaria, He had a conversation with His disciples about missing a meal. In John 5:32 He said, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” His disciples were perplexed, and Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” Jesus spoke to them about the souls that were ready for harvest. He told them that both those who sow and those who reap would rejoice, and jointly benefit from their heavenly wages and gathered fruit for eternal life. His Father’s will was that His followers would preach the gospel to the masses and make disciples. John 5:38 sums it up best as Jesus said, “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”

As followers and disciples of Christ, we too have that same mandate; to work out our labor of love, and compel those on the highways and byways to come and partake of the glorious Wedding Feast that has been prepared since the beginning of time. This Labor Day, take time to reflect on the diversity and talents we share in the workforce of the Kingdom of God.

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