top of page

Happy Labor Day

Are you one of the millions who take Labor Day as just another day off work but not quite sure why it is a holiday, and frankly, not too concerned why, just thankful you have an extra day off? It's okay to admit it. Most will acknowledge it is a day to celebrate workers or something to that effect. "A day to pay tribute to the hard work we do every other day of the year," one may answer. To a certain extent, that isn't wrong; however, it isn't completely correct, either.

Labor Day was declared a national holiday in 1894. By the time it became a federal holiday, Labor Day was already an official holiday in 24 states. Events leading up to this declaration need to be understood. Working conditions in the country’s factories, railroads, mills, and mines were grim. Employees, including many children, were often required to work 12 hours a day, six days a week, in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. Supervision was harsh and punishments were handed out to those who talked or sang as they worked. What is known as the Haymarket Riot (or Haymarket Incident) began on May 1, 1886. Thousands of workers took to the streets of Chicago to demand an eight-hour workday. The demonstration lasted for days. Eight years later, in May 1894, workers went on strike to protest 16-hour workdays and low wages at the Pullman Palace Car Company near Chicago. President Grover Cleveland ordered federal troops to Chicago to end the boycott. Angry strikers began to riot, and National Guard troops fired into the mob, killing dozens of people. In 1914, Henry Ford more than doubled wages to $5 a day. When his profits doubled in two years, rivals realized he might be onto something. In 1926, he cut workers’ hours from nine to eight. The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act limited child labor, set a minimum wage, and mandated a shorter workweek, with overtime pay for longer shifts. By the 1940s, the average workweek had fallen to five eight-hour days. This was a huge victory for workers considering they had been trying to establish what they considered "better conditions" for over 75 years.

That wasn't a decade, that was nearly a century. When I take a moment to think of the blessings I have today that workers then could not even imagine, I take a moment and thank God for the blessings in my life. I also turn to scripture and remind myself what the Word says regarding work.

Genesis 2:15:

"And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it

and to keep it." KJV

"The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take

care of it."

If we read, we also find that man named the animals. From these verses, we can glean that God gave man specific work to do, both physical work (gardening) and cultural/scientific/intellectual work (naming the animals). All the work we do is rooted in God's design for humanity. God did not design us to be idle creatures.

Genesis 3:17:

"To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree

about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground

because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your

life." (NIV)

Adam's and Eve's sin makes the work we were created to do more difficult. God still provides for us through our work, but it takes more effort. Work itself isn't a curse. We had work before the fall. The nature of our work; however, changed because of the fall.

Mark 6:3:

"Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of

Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?" (KJV)

Jesus did ordinary work – the same labor of his earthly father Joseph. Jesus worked a real job like many of us work today. He knows what is like to learn and master a "trade."

Depending on what translation you read, you will find between 683 and 859 passages that relate/reference "work" or "labor." You can find them in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Reading them, you will find their meaning stays consistent throughout the Bible. They also do not conflict with any other teaching or command found elsewhere in scripture. This is critical to keep in mind. Often, we tend to "look up" scripture on a subject/topic, then "run with it." This can be detrimental to the overall meaning of The Word and lead to "twisted scripture."

For instance, Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (KJV) This verse reminds us that we are to bring honor to Christ in every aspect and activity of our lives - to include whatever work we do. We are to be light and do we show that where we are? Deuteronomy 24:14-15, "Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise, they may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin." (NIV) God's law gave everyone the opportunity to better their situation, while providing humane options for those who could not. When studying, God does not command equal results, He does; however, expect us to "love our neighbor" and treat others fairly, with respect and do the right thing when it comes to others, especially when it is owed, worked for and when we can help others help themselves.

Colossians 3:23 reads, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;" (KJV) It is often quoted and a very well known verse. Have you, by chance read verse 24 & 25? "Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done and there is no respect of persons." We may work for man but we serve Christ. Since creation, God has given us all work to do. If we all approached our "work" as an act of worship or service to God, think of what a difference it would make in our lives. Think if we shifted the complaining and resentment we had in the workplace to praise and worship, and if we treated our jobs as discipleship the difference we could make. Furthermore, if we had that attitude about the people who worked with us, for us and who served us, the impact alone would transform lives.

I can sit here and list out scripture on labor, working, serving and more. I encourage you to take some time this Labor Day and look some up for yourself. More importantly, be sure you keep them in proper context. God created man to fellowship with Him and to worship Him. One of our purposes has always been to care for His creations (i.e. the land and animals.) Because of man's choice to disobey God, man was kicked out of Eden and thus our "work" became more labor intensive. In other words, we had to work harder. It wasn't a curse; it was a consequence of man's actions. God has never left us. All of His promises, commandments and instructions still apply when it comes to man's labor and work. We just added to the load a little more.

As with most things, man complicates things. We tend to be selfish and forget what we are supposed to be focused on. "Follow your passion" or "Follow your heart" is often the advice we give people when they are searching for a job. What does the Bible say? Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?" Our heart does not always make wise decisions.

Mike Rowe puts it best, "“Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.” When I am at work, I give it my all. I "render unto Caeser what is Caeser's." I do not compromise my values or fundamental beliefs. I never forget who I ultimately report to and what my ultimate job performance review will be. I remember not only the 600-800 verses about work but I remember the entire book as well as the God I serve. That is where I find my happiness. I find it whether I am sitting behind a desk, delivering a trash can, help fixing a sewer leak or sitting in what seems like the never ending meeting.

This Labor Day, I take time to reflect on the near century long struggle for a forty-hour work week with a minimum wage, overtime and mainly humane working conditions. I pray we never loose sight of our role in the workforce as Christians, whether we are workers, bosses, owners, volunteers or customers.

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page