Labor Day

Labor Day 2020 will occur on Monday, September 7. Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers and is traditionally observed on the first Monday in September. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894. Labor Day weekend also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, street parades and athletic events. This year we are keeping it small.

Now for a little more history. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks (ouch) in order to earn enough for a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 worked in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of what an adult would earn. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions lacking fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks. Labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay. Many of these events turned violent during this period. Because of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed it into law. More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified.

Some think it is the most hypocritical of all our holidays. That if we’re really thankful that we have jobs while some don’t, that if we’re really serious about labor being a blessing, then what we should do on Labor Day is go to work. But no. Most of us will say I don’t want to work on Labor Day, but I do expect to get paid for it anyway. Hum.

So, here’s a question. Do you really like your job? Do you look forward to going to work because you really miss seeing your boss and your fellow workers and see how they’re doing?

I have the best job in the world! I get to give people food. It doesn’t get any better than that. I know what it’s like to struggle EVERY DAY to put food on the table for yourself and your family. I know what it’s like to go to bed knowing that there is no food in the house for tomorrow and the struggle to provide continues. I know. But I get to be there for people who are in need of help with their struggle to keep food in the house. When you need food and you come to the Enfield Food Distribution, you have come to the right place, because we can help. I love my job!

However, a recent Harris Interactive survey uncovered the following statistics on American job satisfaction: Across America, 45 percent of workers say they are either satisfied or extremely satisfied. 20 percent feel very passionate about their jobs. 33 percent believe they have reached a dead end in their career. 21 percent are eager to change careers. Many go to work simply because they have no other choice. “I owe, I owe, so it’s off to work I go.” Some are unhappy with what they do. Maybe because it is the same old routine day after day. And their life seems to be a meaningless merry-go-round with no real purpose to it. It’s kind of like Tennessee Ernie Ford when he sang, “You load 16 tons, and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt.”

Because work is important, people have had some things to say about it over the years. Which one rings true for you?                                                            

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”                                                                                                                              

“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group. There is less competition.” Indira Ghandi                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             “I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” – Jerome K. Jerome. (Jerome Klapka Jerome (2 May 1859 – 14 June 1927) was an English writer and humorist, best known for the comic Three Men in a Boat (1889).

We all have good days, we all have bad days. Work is something we have to live with and so how can we make it easier to live with? So, what’s God’s perspective on it.

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created”. The first words we read in the Bible are that God created. He worked. It was a creative work, but regardless, it was work. Genesis 2:1 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. But God’s work continued and continues today. Psalm 121:3b “he who watches over you will not slumber”. 

Jesus, too, worked and works. He was a carpenter until the age of 30 and then he saved the world. John 5:17 “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working. God works, and we are made in his image. God gave instructions to man in Genesis 1:28  God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

Work was made more difficult after the fall of Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:17-19 “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of 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 until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” With the effect of sin, man went from gardener to farmer.

Ecclesiastes 2:22 “What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This … is meaningless. The problem described by the writer of Ecclesiastes is one we all recognize. We all search for meaning and value in our work. What is the significance in the work we do?

Psalm 127 gives us some insight. Work is a collaborative effort between God and us. Psalm 127:1 “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” God made us to work. He wants us to work. Ephesians 2:8-10 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We are valuable in his sight. We need to value ourselves by who we are, not by what we do. The work that we do, whether paid or unpaid, whether perceived as valuable by the world or not, is to bring glory to God.                                                                                             1 Corinthians 10:31 “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Colossians 3 (23-24), “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men … It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” We work to support our families and ourselves. 2 Thessalonians, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

We work to help those who cannot help themselves. Within our society are people who cannot work. It is partly our responsibility to assist them. Not those who will not work, but those who cannot work. Ephesians 4:28, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” We work to glorify God, and to serve humanity. When we work in such ways, then the work we are doing is valuable both now and forever.

1.   Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work ’mid springing flow’rs.
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man’s work is done.                                                                                                                                                                                                           2.Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the sunny noon;
Fill brightest hours with labor,
Rest comes sure and soon.
Give every flying minute
Something to keep in store;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man works no more.

3.Work, for the night is coming,
Under the sunset skies;
While their bright tints are glowing,
Work, for daylight flies.
Work till the last beam fadeth,
Fadeth to shine no more;
Work, while the night is dark’ning,
When man’s work is o’er.

Anna L. Coghill   1854

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