Those of us who live in the United States realize that on Monday, September 7, we will be celebrating Labor Day. However, I wonder how many of us know the origin and meaning of this holiday. I decided to do a little research to gain some understanding for myself. According to the United States Department of Labor, Labor Day is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It is an annual national tribute to the contributions of workers to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. Originally the observance and celebration of Labor Day was a street parade showing the strength and spirit of the trade and labor organizations of the community. The parade was followed by a festival of recreation and amusement for the workers and their families. In later years, speeches by prominent men and women were given to emphasize the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Today, do we honor our laborers or do we just think of this day as the last holiday of summer giving us a reason to have a picnic? Personally, I want to thank the skilled and semi-skilled workers of our nation for making it possible for me to live the lifestyle I am inclined to take for granted. Our laborers deserve recognition and thanks for their contribution to our nation’s prosperity. I am saddened by the number of jobs that have been lost by members of our working class because we now purchase products made outside our country for less money. As a nation, should we not provide these men and women the opportunity to labor and provide financially for their own families? They deserve the ability to find value and worth within themselves as well as to produce the goods we except to purchase.
In 1909. the American Federation of Labor convention adopted the Sunday preceding Labor Day as Labor Sunday and dedicated it to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement. I never knew about this! However, this new insight led me to look for scriptures relating to labor. John 6:27 ESV says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” While I admit that there is a need to work for physical food, we must not forget the need for spiritual food as well. Physical labor will not achieve its fullest significance if one works only for a monetary reward. The best physical labor is not an end in itself but is a means to the greater eternal purposes of God. Paul tells us in Galatians 6:9 ESV, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” No matter what type of work we do, we tend to grow weary or reach burn-out if we focus only upon the work itself. We need to follow the advice of Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” These scripture verses may be good food for thought for all of us at our Labor Day picnics.
Again I quote the United States Department of Labor, “The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.” So, American workers, I relay to you one more scripture found in Matthew 11:28 ESV, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” May Labor Day be a day of rest for the laborers who help our nation to be a nation of prosperity and peace. May you experience both physical and spiritual rest.