Labor Day is an often-neglected holiday in the local church.
This is unfortunate as Labor Day weekend offers ministers an opportunity to discuss Christian perspectives on work.
For example, church leaders could explore the biblical teachings on work and help congregants develop a “marketplace theology” in which vocations are understood as the unique ways we help manifest the reign of God.
This approach is exemplified by R. Paul Stevens in “Doing God’s Business,” in which he asserts: “Normally God calls us to himself and leads us into particular expressions of service appropriate for our gifts and talents through our passions, abilities and opportunities.”
“And that work we do,” Stevens continues, “whether international business or graphic art, becomes part of the all-embracing summons of God to belong to him, to live in a suitable manner, and to ‘do the Lord’s work.'”
In order to help church leaders plan worship gatherings focused on labor during this upcoming holiday weekend, I’ve compiled articles that have appeared on EthicsDaily.com previously.
David Wheeler, pastor of FBC Los Angeles at the time, urged reflection on work by focusing on texts such as Genesis 1-2, Proverbs 31 and Matthew 20.
Christina Gibson, a graduate of George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, offered an insightful reflection on Proverbs 31, emphasizing that our value is not in our work per se but in using our gifts and abilities to love and serve.
Guy Sayles, pastor of First Baptist in Asheville, N.C., emphasized the need for a holistic perspective on work, seeing it as “a partnership with God in caring for creation, for culture and for our neighbors.”
Mike Stroope, associate professor of Christian missions and M.C. Shook chair of missions at George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, emphasized the need for viewing work as an integral part of missions and ministry.
“Instead of perpetuating the mindset of professionalized ministry and missions,” Stroope asserted, “we must adamantly proclaim that every follower of Christ is a minister and a witness … each believer must be challenged to see his or her work as ministry and missions.”
Kate Hanch, a graduate student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., and a former children’s ministry associate at Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., encouraged churches to be aware of and make accommodations for members whose jobs require them to work on Sunday.
Jim Evans, former pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala., suggested viewing work as contributing to the common good and as motivated by Jesus’ call to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Elizabeth Evans Hagan, former pastor of Washington Plaza Baptist Church in Reston, Va., noted the correlation between work and feeling useful, emphasizing the importance of empowering others by providing them opportunities to share their gifts.
More recently, Hagan reflected on the importance of being someone rather than something – a much-needed emphasis in our society that often assesses value based on occupation and title.
Mark Johnson, pastor of Central Baptist in Lexington, Ky., and Sam Davidson, executive director of CoolPeopleCare, both offered reflections on the need to maintain a manageable schedule in order to have quality time for both work and personal activities.
Johnson focused more broadly on the need to rest and renew to be continually fruitful in work and service. Davidson reflected on the fact that while technology allows us to work everywhere, it can make it difficult to disconnect.
James Brown, U.K. author of “Why Work Matters,” employed a creative approach in noting the importance of work by imaging what a world without work would look like. This would provide a creative introduction to a sermon or Bible study.
A sermon by Joel Snider, pastor of First Baptist in Rome, Ga., on the biblical teachings about Sabbath offered a helpful reminder that quality hours of labor are to be balanced with quality hours of rest and renewal.
Preachers seeking a more prophetic approach should read three columns by Chris Sanders, former general counsel for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 227 in Kentucky, who is still active representing union and nonunion workers.
Another resource for viewing and assessing organized labor through a biblical lens would be articles by Andy Watts, assistant professor of Christian ethics at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., who addressed misconceptions about labor unions and shared how several Christian denominations have sought labor justice.
Finally, “Sacred Texts, Social Duty,” EthicsDaily.com’s documentary on faith and taxes, would enable church leaders to discuss issues closely related to work, such as predatory (payday) lending, “trickle down” economics and theistic materialism.
I hope these resources inspire you to find meaning and significance in your work by understanding it as an expression of God’s redemptive work in the world.
Zach Dawes is the managing editor at EthicsDaily.com.