It was not that long ago that there was nothing like retirement. Yes, the labor of life changed as physical and intellectual limitations of age affected what work people did and how people worked. But there was no idea that work was foreign or alien or an imposition upon life -- something that could be scheduled away at a certain age so that a person could do what they wanted. As I remember my grandfathers, I think of men who would have gladly traded the opportunity to pursue their pleasures for more days on the farm or in the store where they worked. As I watched my father pass away, I knew that the few short weeks that prevented him from going to work were the worst moments he had to endure and I was thankful that they were brief. But my grandmothers and mother did not cease their labor. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, and the usual things that formed part of their life of labor did not end because they hit 65. Even for women who have worked outside the home, when one venue of their labor ends it does not mean that they no longer labor. Why is it we presume that labor should end?
God created us for labor. In the beginning it was a labor of love. Sin changed all of that and the labor of love became a burden. Men were warned how the world would no longer produce food without work but they would have to till the soil and battle the elements to deliver for their families. Women were warned that their desire for children would come at a cost to them, great sacrifice, and great pain. When man was booted from Eden, he entered a world in which work was hard -- whether you were the hunter or the farmer. We have lived with the burden of this labor ever since. Yet labor itself was never an option. It was the shape of our lives from the very moment of our creation. Even before the creation of Eve, God gave to Adam a job to behold all that God had made and name His creation. It is foolish to presume that work and life are enemies.
On this Labor Day, we find a nation in which things have changed. Where once it was typical for employers to have the upper hand and even to view employees as liabilities in their pursuit of profit, now we find a labor market in which the worker appears to have the upper hand. Wages have had to increase because the numbers of workers is in short supply. Add to this a benefit created during the pandemic in which unemployment was bolstered to provide more money than had ever been given before, the labor market is still trying to figure out how it works. Not to mention the numbers of businesses, especially small businesses, that failed during the pandemic and the workers who ended up still working but working from home and we have even more change to disrupt the labor market. Not in the least is how we have changed our view of work. Work now is expected to provide more than money to support our lives. It is supposed to make us happy. Even more confusion in the marketplace.
In the end what I can say is this. We should not disdain the gift of labor and the opportunity to work. Work is a blessing and to forget this is to impose a great burden upon all of us who do not have the choice and must supply labor for the support of ourselves and those in our care. Today at least, we ought to give thanks to God for employment, for work, for the privilege and blessing of labor. We ought to pray for those who are underemployed -- who seek a better job, for those unemployed -- who seek a job, for those about to be employed -- starting their first job, and for those who have given up searching for work -- for whatever reason. Work is good, a gift from God, a vital path to adult responsibility, and a blessing in which we not only provide for ourselves and those in our care, but serve God and serve our neighbor. Happy Labor Day!
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