1. Dignity of Labor and God’s First Commandment
On Labor Day we celebrate the value and dignity of work. It is worth noting that the first commandment that God gave to humanity before the fall, is to work! Genesis 2:15 – “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Genesis 1:27-28: “So God created man in His own image.. male and female He created them… God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air…'”
2. God Who Works
In John 5:17, replying to the accusation of healing on Sabbath, Jesus says “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working”.
2.1. Work in God’s Creation Purpose
If work is part of our created purpose in the present creation (even before the fall), it seems possible that even in the new creation (new heavens and new earth described in the book of Revelation) we will be working – perhaps building the city described in Revelation 21? (sorry, singers/musicians, it may not all be only singing and music in the new creation!). We will probably continue to study, explore and work in God’s new creation, whether it be science, technology, engineering, art, literature, etc. Our work skills, resumes, and gifts may be useful longer than we think!
2.2. Resting in God
On a more serious note – Jesus says in Matt 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
3. Reversing the Impact of the Fall
How can taking up yoke (which is work) give rest? One of the ways the fall has made work into toil and drudgery is human injustice, exploitation, selfishness, greed, office politics, social discrimination of certain work etc. When we learn from Jesus and be “gentle and lowly in heart” and see work as a dedication to God – if we have no agenda other than to do God’s will, that is where we find rest. What makes work toil is the agenda behind the work.
3.1 Dedicating Our Work to the Lord
We are called upon to work in God’s world. Let our work be a dedication to the Lord. When we work faithfully and do our jobs well, it is a reflection of God. We have to work everything as we are working for the Lord. It is imperative that we strive for excellence in whatever we do at our offices, homes, businesses, churches, schools/colleges, etc.
3.2. For Good or for Bad
And through excellence, when we make progress (whether it is a forward step in knowledge, education, research, promotions, climbing up the corporate ladder, business growth, power, artistic performances, etc), the question before us should be how to use it for good – to serve people and society.