Monday, September 4, 2017
Labor Day. . .
As you take your leisure today (unless you are one of those for whom this not a holiday), stop to thank God for your job, for the vocation that you live out in the work you have chosen because of skill, aptitude, or training, and for the fruits of that labor. God is behind it all. And it is a precious thing. Work is a gift not simply when it is rewarding or fun or we like it. Work is a gift because we were not created for leisure. God made us to take care of His creation and to have dominion over it, to use it to provide for those in our care. There is something wrong when we run from this purpose or find it demeaning. I recall what the poet James Russell wrote: No man is born into the world whose work is not born with him.
I do know that there are unpleasant jobs. Work is not glamorous. My dad was a plumber and worked like a dog to provide for his family. He put in long hours and endured distasteful duties for the goal of doing his best for God and his best for his family and his best for his neighbor. On my way through college and seminary I had a few unpleasant jobs. I was thankful for the work and for the money it provided to help me pay for school. The jobs and my employers taught me a great deal. Although at the time I was not sure the labor was good, I am more than grateful for the jobs when they came. As a pastor I look out on people who struggle with their jobs, to find good jobs that will provide for their families, or to find better jobs.
And let us not forget those who labor without a paycheck -- to the moms and dads whose vocation is parenthood and whose calling is seldom appreciated outside the home. This is work, too. And it is godly and good. Though the world may not herald such labor, God knows and the church dare not forget the work that it takes to turn a place into a home. Remember how Archbishop Fulton Sheen put the dignity of work: Let those who think their work has no value recognize that by fulfilling their insignificant tasks out of love for God, those tasks assume supernatural worth. The aged who bear the taunts of the young, the sick crucified to their beds, the street cleaner and the garbage collector, the chorus girl who never had a line, the unemployed carpenter – all these will be enthroned above dictators, presidents, kings, and Cardinals if a greater love of God inspires their humbler tasks than inspires those who play nobler roles with less love.
On this day let us not forget to give thanks for the opportunity to work and for the fruits of those labors. Only then let us enjoy the time off (if we have it). Even God took a rest on the seventh day after all His splendid work of creation! Just as the rejection of work is a rejection of who God created us to be, so rejection of His rest places ourselves above God.