Why Labor Day?
In the world described before “the fall,” God gave humans labor to perform. It was meaningful work which was not toilsome; rather it was fulfilling and done in the complete presence of God. As a result of humanity choosing our own way rather than God’s way (the fall), we find labor becoming toilsome, tedious, and draining. Labor and work, which God gave to be life-giving, became life-stealing in the hands of the selfish, greedy, and wantonness. The “system” devolved to view labor as a tool to be leveraged and exploited for gain for the few, instead of the expression of human dignity and purpose.
Jesus Christ came and paid the price of our sin, opening up the possibility for us to live more as God designed us to live. When broken things are fixed, we call that action “redemption.” In the church, we work to bring redemption to all things in God’s creation including the workplace. Redemption is not just about getting to do a Bible study with willing colleagues in the break room. Redemption means people are willing to put in a good day’s work and employers are willing to compensate them more on their worth as humans beings than how little they can get away with not paying.
We’re not Pollyannas on this. Do corporations have to make money? Sure. Should people who bear the weight of responsibility be compensated for their continuous burden? Sure. Would an owner reap more of the rewards than a laborer? Sure. Even under these principles, we can bring redemption where all workers could make enough to live at a comfortable standard. A person’s work life enables living with family and friends instead of living only to work. Imagine an employment culture where those “at the top” understand those “at the bottom” exist to please God, and not to simply create profit for those at the top. Redemption could mean the captains of industry would willingly forgo a $3 million bonus so that their employees could have better healthcare costs.
Ephesians 6:5-9 is often overlooked because it was written in a day when slavery was a common form of labor. Slavery is life-stealing and evil, so we skip this lesson and miss the teaching Paul was offering. Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrase translation helps recover the meaning for today’s reader: “Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters, but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. Work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from The Master, regardless of whether you are servant or free. Masters, it’s the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. Christ makes no distinction between you and them.”
See you Sunday!
Chris Yost [email protected]