This weekend is Labor Day weekend, a time when we pause to reflect upon the value of our work. I always thought it was ironic that we celebrate Labor Day by engaging in acts of leisure. You might think that such a celebration would involve more work, but in truth we humans work so that we can have more time for things that give us true rest.
But what if we could find work in our rest?
I’m not suggesting that we put more work on our plates. The fact of the matter is that too many of us are “workaholics.” We are addicted to our labor, because we find our value in what we produce through it. That is why you see people whose lives are too small because they don’t have any time for anything but work, and it’s also why you see others struggle when they reach retirement age because their identity and sense of worth were wrapped up in their labor.
What I am advocating for is a return to a healthy sense of “vocation,” which derives from the same root word as “calling.” As people of faith, we believe that the best work is that which enables us to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and serve God’s Kingdom purposes. Unfortunately, that truth isn’t sounded enough today; we only tend to talk about those persons who answer God’s call to “full-time Christian vocations.” But the fact of the matter is that God’s call extends to each of us, and as Paul reminded the church, God gave His people various gifts “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:12). What Scripture teaches is that all work is sacred and is intended to bless both the worker and those to whom our work is directed.
I’ve always thought that when we labor in this way we best fulfill the purpose for which we were created, which is to reflect the “image of God” in how we contribute to the betterment of the world. The very first chapter depicts God as a powerful creative force, bringing all manner of God to pass. When we join God in that mission, we find deep contentment. When we don’t, choosing to focus our labor on self-centered outcomes, we devolve into the discouragement reflected in Ecclesiastes, where with the Teacher we say: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless! What do people gain from their all their labors at which they toil under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3).
It’s a choice we get to make every day, and one that is informed by our Sunday devotion. God’s sanctifying the Sabbath after the six days of creation is a reminder of the rhythm that is necessary for us to avoid the despair of Ecclesiastes for the joy of Genesis.
Perhaps a place to begin is with a simple prayer each day before you leave the house. “God, bless my work and use it to bless someone else. Be glorified in whatever you give me to do and lead me in a way that allows me to serve Your purposes in ways that make a difference.” Such a prayer can have mammoth effects and produce a powerful witness that makes this world (and us) more of what God has always intended it to be
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).