September 7, 2021
By Karen Hunt
When I think of labor, I think of my father. He was an artistic man who had to leave art school and go into the tool and die profession to pay for his mother’s medical bills. I didn’t realize the sacrifice he had made to provide for his mother, and then for us until I took a temporary job answering phones in a machine shop. It was a dirty, noisy place, and I realized that this was the atmosphere that my refined father had worked in for decades.
My father would be the first one to say that work isn’t always pleasant, and it hasn’t been so since Adam heard the consequences of his disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Adam had been charged to tend the Garden, but after his sin, his work changed to something far less pleasant and far more grueling. God pronounced that Adam’s work would now be a daily struggle for survival for the rest of his life and for his descendants as well. Genesis 3:19 (NIV) begins, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…”
In the New Testament, we see a different view of work articulated. Paul, a highly educated man, and a leading apostle worked as a tentmaker so that he would not be reliant on those he led for his daily living. In his letter to the church at Colosse, we read about a view of work that is not just about daily needs, but a higher, more eternal perspective.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”Colossians 3:23-24 NIV
In these verses, Paul is writing to those who were slaves, but we can apply this truth as well, and what a wonderful truth it is. We aren’t just working to supply our temporal needs, but our work has value to God. We are serving the Lord even with our most menial labor, and it will someday be rewarded. It’s no longer a consequence of sin, but it is our blessing.
My father knew this truth. It allowed him to whistle when he came home from work and to be an exceptional worker in hard, dirty conditions. It allowed him to share Christ with his co-workers. So today, when my husband works late, and I have my struggles as a full-time “domestic manager,” we know that we work for the Lord. We can also rejoice to know that our work matters not just to ourselves, or is not just to support our families, but also to serve God and obtain an eternal reward. For that reason, we can rejoice and celebrate Labor Day.
Photo Credit: Javad Esmaeili