A Look at Labor Day
Labor Day weekend is here, signaling the end of summer and giving laborers a break. Many will take advantage of the holiday to work on home projects, while others will squeeze in a long weekend at the lake, mountains, or beach. Parades and political rallies will be among the festivities in some locations. Regardless, it is right to pay tribute to American workers who laid the groundwork for our country’s strength, prosperity, and well-being.
A Little History
So where did this idea of a Labor Day holiday come from? It is unclear, but Peter McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, is recorded as having suggested that a day be set aside to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” He chose September 5 because it fell roughly halfway between July 4th and Thanksgiving. Records also show that Matthew Maguire helped to institute the holiday. Maguire served as secretary of the Central Labor Union, encouraging labor activists to push for recognition of American workers.
The first Labor Day holiday was in New York City. On September 5, 1882, a large parade exhibited “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”
It hasn’t always been a federal holiday. Individual states first passed legislation in recognition of its importance. Then, more states followed until Congress passed an act designating the new federal holiday the first Monday in September.
Traditions affiliated with Labor Day
- In the late 19th century, celebrations focused on parades in urban areas. Now, there are fewer parades and more activities honoring organized labor.
- How many of your mothers told you not to wear white after Labor Day? The tradition goes back to the late Victorian era, when wearing white after the summer ended was a fashion faux pas. White indicated you were still in vacation mode. The tradition is no longer adhered to, although I still tend to. (I always change my organ shoes from white to black after Labor Day.)
- Labor Day marks the unofficial end of hot dog season. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Americans will have eaten 7 billion hot dogs.
A Biblical View of Work
The Bible speaks of work beginning in Genesis when God worked to complete His creation. Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden to work it and watch over it, but then God sent him away to work the ground “from which he was taken.” We know that heavy labor imposed upon the Israelites by the Egyptians prompted their massive exodus from Egypt to go to the Promised Land.
One of the Ten Commandments of the Lord’s covenant to the Israelites concerned work. “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord” (Deut 5:14).
King Solomon endorsed the idea of work and the fulfillment one gets from it in Ecclesiastes 3:22. “So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot.”
Work is to be rewarded with earnings, while laziness is admonished. “There is profit in all hard work, but endless talk leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23). The Parable of the Workers tells how a landowner hires laborers at different times of the day and pays them all the same amount. Some disagree as to their “fair share.” However, the parable teaches us a good lesson that can be summarized in Galatians 6:4. “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.”
“Dreams result from much work,” according to Ecclesiastes 5:3. Another reason to work is “to give generously to others in need” (Ephesians 4:28). You can be such a blessing.
In the Experiencing God study by Henry Blackaby, we learn that God is always at work around us and invites us to become involved with Him in His work, not just on a mission field but in everyday living. I challenge you to look for it. I guarantee you will find it. Then, involve yourself in it. Allow your work to become personally and spiritually rewarding.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2). Is it possible God has plans for you to work as a laborer in His harvest?
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