Happy Labor Day! Hope you are soaking up the peace and calm that comes along with an extra day tacked onto your weekend! It is always nice to have your discretionary time increased by 33%. Hey, who doesn’t like that?! In my experience, however, the peace and calm that come along with Labor Day can have a sneaky negative impact on the rest of the week.
Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to like weekends more than weekdays. I like being able to have autonomy over my schedule. And weekends are the times when others in our lives have flexibility in their calendars as well, so often there’s great chances to relax and unwind in the midst of community, friendship, and family. Weekends are a pretty great cultural product!
Isn’t that an interesting thought, though? The idea of ordering our days so that our primary working days are clustered together and then are followed up by a couple of recreation days is a relatively recent one. Actually, the more you think about how the rest of the history of the world has experienced life and its relationship to work and rest, the concept of weekends are pretty rare. Weekends are reserved for the privileged. There are many, in our country and around the world, who do not have the same financial freedom to take time away from work for multiple days during the week. I’ve learned that I need to be careful in how I think about this advantaged position of mine.
Sorry - I’m getting off track from what I was originally going to say. What I was going to say is that I’m more attracted to rest and relaxation than work. I’m more attracted to the weekend than the weekday. And I can enjoy a 3-day weekend so much that it leaves me a little negative towards the normal 2-day weekend which follows it, not to mention my attitude towards the responsibilities and cares of the work week. Obviously, taken to extremes, this could be a recipe for disaster. The book of Proverbs speaks often to the themes of work, rest, laziness, and industry. The wise recognize that both work and rest are good, but there are consequences when those get out of balance. “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense” (Proverbs 12:11).
It’s times like this where it’s good to be reminded that God has created work, and it is good. Back in the creation narrative, after God created mankind, He entrusted them with the responsibility of filling the earth and subduing it. “Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds of the sky” (Genesis 1:28). All of this took place before sin entering the world, which means that humans were created for work. Leisure will never satisfy you in the way that work will. Part of being human is having work to do.
But when sin entered the picture, and every aspect of humanity was negatively impacted, work was one of the areas most damaged. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:17-19). The impact of sin on the area of work was dramatic. A gift and responsibility God gave humanity has now become a burden and chore, with great efforts and pains required for completion. Anyone, whether it was because they prepped for a midterm or they dug ditches, has lived long enough to recognize that work is hard. But just like everything else, God will ultimately redeem work
We are made in God’s image, and our God is a God who works. Psalm 19:1 says that we see the product of His work and it causes us to worship Him. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Therefore, when we work, we are actually reflecting an aspect of God’s nature to the world around us. This is partly why the quality of and attitude toward our work matters. We are image bearers, and when we work, we reflect God’s image. God also rested, and has called us to remember to rest as well. But it’s helpful when we don’t value one over the other. Both of them have a good and important role in our lives.
Adopting a healthy attitude towards work can make an incredible difference in your approach to life. For some of us, it’s helpful to stop thinking that work is the enemy. Rather, it’s an opportunity to experience a part of what we’ve been made for. Embracing work is the embrace of humanity. Of course, this can be done to unhealthy extremes which perverts God’s original intent, but it’s helpful to recognize that work is actually good for our souls.
All that to say, Happy Labor Day. If you’ve got some free time and want some more complete thoughts on a theology of work, check out Tim Keller’s podcast on the subject: