Work is good and essential in both a civilized society and a spiritual community.
Maya Angelou aptly observed, “Nothing will work unless you do.” Work is not the essence of life, and the avoidance of work is not the key to happiness. However, a positive attitude toward work and a healthy sense of vocation contribute to meaningful life.
Monday is Labor Day in the U.S., a federal holiday that celebrates “the social and economic achievements of American workers.”
Unfortunately, some have misunderstood the story of Genesis 3 to imply that work is a part of God’s curse on humanity. The Bible, however, portrays work as good and godly, an expression of human creativity and divine ingenuity.
In both the marketplace and the church, we need to claim and celebrate work as good and vocation as a valued dimension of life. Here are seven good things about work to think about and celebrate over Labor Day weekend:
1. We are designed to be workers.
Genesis 1:27 tells us that “God created human beings in God’s own image.” In Genesis, God is introduced as a creator or a maker, and, likewise, God created humans to be makers or workers.
Of course, we work to “make a living” and provide for our families. But work is much more than our earning power. Work is an expression of our giftedness and an investment in the common good of our community.
2. We are wise to establish and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
If we are not careful, work can become all-consuming. Genesis 2:2 says, “By the seventh day God finished all the work God had been doing; so, on the seventh day God rested from all work.”
Maintaining a work-life balance is also addressed in the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:8 commands, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
3. We honor God by doing all our work with excellence and integrity.
Colossians 3:17 urges, “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.”
Martin Luther insisted, “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
4. We are called to be co-laborers with God and each other as we work to fulfill God’s mission.
Throughout the course of our lives, much, if not most, of our work in the marketplace and in the church will be teamwork. In 1 Corinthians 3:9, Paul instructs the new believers that, “We are co-workers in God’s service.”
5. Great things are accomplished when God’s people commit to a strategic vision and mindset.
Effective work requires focus and determination. For example, as the wall of the Jewish temple was being rebuilt in 444 BCE, the feat was accomplished, according to Nehemiah 4:6, because the people had “a mind to work.”
6. We usually find our vocation or our calling as we discover and live out our passion.
Frederick Buechner contended, “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”
7. The effectiveness of our work cannot be measured by how quickly we see results.
Sometimes we see the fruit of our labor and sometimes we work believing the next generation will be blessed by the fruit of our labor. Robert Louis Stevenson advised, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
If you have a place to live, food to eat, someone to love and good work to do, then you are among the most blessed people in the world. Eric Hoffer deduced, “The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.”
Work can be frustrating at times and rewarding at other times, but it is a privilege never to be taken for granted.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches. He and his wife, Amanda, live in Brookhaven, Georgia.