The Value of Work

Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday of September, and it celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. The Central Labor Union of New York City observed the first Labor Day in 1882. Laboring men and women took the day off to march through the city streets in parades and then gather in parks for picnics. By the time it became a federal holiday in 1894, thirty states officially celebrated Labor Day.

In 1956, the United States Post Office issued the first Labor Day commemorative stamp which pictured a large muscular man carrying a sledgehammer, a pick, a hoe, and an axe over his shoulder. His wife sat nearby showing a small child how to read. The words of the poet Carlyle in the lower left announced, “Labor Is Life.” Perhaps you have never heard that motto, “Labor Is Life.” Instead you may have heard your parents tell you when you complained about a chore you didn’t like, “You’re not supposed to like it. That’s why they call it work!” “Labor is drudgery” sounds more like it to many people today.

Some Christians have been taught that work is a curse — something evil brought about by Adam and Eve’s sin. Because of this mistaken belief, some people feel that what they do in their jobs every day isn’t very important. However, the Word of God teaches something entirely different from that. The Bible instructs us about the value of work!

The Bible teaches us that God Himself works. Jesus said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). In Genesis we see the evidence of God’s work in creation and the fact that He rested from all His labors on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3). There we also discover that man was made in His image (Genesis 1:26), and that we were granted dominion over God’s creation. At the very least, this implies that we are to work to tend creation, as Adam was charged by God to do (Genesis 2:15). In fact, work was declared “good” before sin ever entered the picture. So it is wrong to say that work was the result of the fall and is part of the curse of Adam’s sin.

The apostle Paul spoke of the value of work when he wrote, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness thy work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing” (II Thessalonians 3:10-13).

May God help us to approach each day’s labor — whether at a job or doing another activity to help our family — with an awareness of the dignity and importance God granted it in creation. And, as with all other things, in whatever we do, may we do it to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31). Have a happy Labor Day!