The Dignity of Labor and the Rest of God (Repost)

Originally from here,

WEBCommentary(tm) – The Dignity of Labor and the Rest of God.

But, I think it has moved…

To the Coal Miners, to the Steel Workers, to the stay at home mothers, to the workers who labour…God bless you.

Monday, September 1 is Labor Day in America. Labor Day is that special day when recognition is given to the millions who make up the nation’s working force. It’s a day of recreation, citywide parades, end of summer barbeques and political speeches. For some it will be just an extra day to relax quietly at home.

Both work and the worker are certainly worthy of a holiday of their own. Jesus placed much emphasis on the dignity of labor and the rights of workers. Interestingly, he never identified with professional religion as a career. Instead he was a simple carpenter by trade and his followers were working men. In Luke 10:7, Jesus said, “The laborer is worthy of his hire.”

Wherever the gospel of Christ has been influential the nobility of the worker has emerged. Many fail to realize that the improved working conditions of labor in the West are due much to the influence of Christianity. It was during the industrial revolution, for instance, that the devout Christian statesmen Lord Shaftesbury sought to change the abysmal working conditions for the masses in Great Britain. Men worked as much as sixteen hours a day – six days a week. Women and little children labored in the mines and in the factories. Little boys were hired as chimney sweeps. The necessary protections for workers were not provided and some died in accidents – others just from sheer exhaustion. Workers were little more than objects of an employer’s economic exploitations. Shaftesbury’s legislation brought relief to these injustices.

Work is inexplicably linked to the great truth that all persons are made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:36). God has made mankind like himself – able to create, to conceive, to build and to make a difference. Idleness in life, however, strikes at the very heart of an individual’s personhood.

In Jesus’ “Parable of the Laborers”, the men standing in the market-place were not just loafers lazily whiling away the hours. They were men who had come looking for a job. Many brought the tools of their trade with them in hopes of getting hired. Some would wait until late in the evening for work because they were desperate to feed and clothe their families. But then the master came and took pity on them, sending them into his vineyards and paying them generously. Commentator William Barclay notes: “This parable states implicitly two great truths which are the very charter of the working man – the right of every man to work and the right of every man to a living wage for his work.” [2]

It’s unfortunate that many every day have to go to a job that they don’t enjoy. But even when this is the case, work still has its value not simply for monetary reasons, but for reasons of the soul. “Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do that day which must be done, whether you like it or not,” wrote Charles Kingsley. “Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance and self control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content and a hundred virtues which the idle never know.” [3]

The most sublime beauty of the Christian concept of work, however, is that it can be connected with a divine calling. The apostle Paul admonished, “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians. 10:31). “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23) The late D. Elton Trueblood expounded on this notion, saying, “There was a time when the idea of calling was applied, almost exclusively, to the work of clergy and missionaries…Why, it is now asked, should not a man be called to be a brick mason or a banker? Why should not a fireman be conscious of a holy vocation? After all, he is certainly engaged in a work which saves lives and prevents much misery. Why should not a woman sense that she is called to be a mother, a wife, or a librarian?” [4] Indeed, all service when performed to the honor of God ranks the same with him. God makes the work holy and richly blesses it.

Work also produces the necessity for rest. Thus Christ invites all laborers: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). There is no greater burden – nothing more “heavy laden” – than a broken relationship with God. The work of sinful passions is spiritually exhausting and completely unfruitful. Such panders with the promise of prosperity, freedom and happiness, only to disillusion with an impoverishment and restlessness of spirit. So Jesus adds, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:29).

Could there possibly be any finer celebration of Labor Day than for one to cease from sinful labors and enter into Christ’s rest? And what joy would also be brought to the celebration by entering into partnership with the gentle Savior – to learn to labor for his glory and reward – to render every service as the light load of his love.

Rev. Mark H. Creech
Director, Christian Action League of North Carolina

Post By Joel Watts (10,049 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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13 thoughts on The Dignity of Labor and the Rest of God (Repost)

  1. I can identify with this. One uncle died in a iron mine in Northern Minnesota (had his head pulled off in a conveyer belt accident). One uncle was captured at the beginning of WW2 on Corregidor, and spent the rest of the war working in a Japanese coal mine in Japan. Two working conditions that were not optimal. Some unions may be bad, but many potential employers are much worse. I think of this everytime I hear Republican say how bad the unions are.

  2. One thing should be noted–the Bible does not record any verse granting support or permission for the establishment of unions. it also doe snot talk about rebelling against one’s employer. Notice that Paul sent a slave back to his master.

    If you are going to use the Bible, then tell the whole story not just the part you like.

    • Oh my….

      First, your idiocy knows no bounds.

      Second, the Church is a union. Slaves do obey their masters, but employees aren’t slaves. Their is neither slave nor master… And, we could go further. Paul sent the slave back because it was law, but Tradition tells us the slave was freed and became a Christian bishop.

      Surely, surely one with even your inability to read Scripture knows the difference between employee and slave, right?

      Wow…

      • The only idiot I see is you. That is news to God. You really do not know what you are talking about

          • Your problem is you have blinders on and assume much. If you had read my original post honestly, you would have seen that I did not disagree with the part that speaks about employer responsibility towards their employees.

            The same verses that apply to employees apply to employers. If business owners actually followed God’s word then they would treat their employees a lot better and pay them like they should.

            But your haste to insult me just destroys your credibility and point. Discussion does not exist to insult those who may say something contrary to your point of view, nor does it exist for you to place your interpretation upon other people’s words.

            You like throwing the baby out with the bath water because it helps you find excuses to continue to follow sinful ideas.

          • In other words… You think a slave = an employee. You realize you have no credibility right?

  3. p.s. The verses ‘do good to those who do evil…’; ‘do not repay evil for evil…’; ‘do unto others…’ apply to employees and how they treat their employers

    • Yes, and James 5.1-6 applies to the employers as well… as does the words of Jesus… and Paul… and Moses…

      But, then again, I doubt you get Tom the Tank Engine so I wouldn’t trust you to understand Scripture.

      • You really do not know what you are talking about do you? Notice, that those verses do not grant permission to form unions, to strike, to return evil for the evil done to the worker. Notice, verse 8 where it says ‘don’t grumble against each other…or you will be judged…’ You seem to cherry pick the verses to avoid doing what God wants.

        • Have you not read the OT?

          Do you not realize that Scripture doesn’t lay everything out?

          Unions are drawn from the rights of the worker in the OT and in the NT – and in Christian Tradition.

          I do not condone violence, however, protecting one’s right is Scriptural. Further, grumbling is a bit different than saying an honest day’s wage for an honest’s day work.

          • If God didn’t lay everything out, then the Bible is of no good to anyone. God may not use specific words or phrases that you are used to hearing but HE has laid everything out for man to know what to do.

            Please list the scripture references that detail the ‘rights’ of the workers. Then compare them with the parable of the employer who hired workers at different times of the day but paid the same wage to all. Read his words carefully.

            These supposed rights you proclaim do not over-rule nor negate employers’ rights. Rights, if they truly exist and George Carlin didn’t think so, are a two way street.

          • Wait… You think scripture lays everything out perfectly? That stands against all Christian tradition, logic, and reason. Say… How about the nuclear bombs? Or democracy…. Or the rights of children…

            You are a devilish little IMO and worse than an atheist.

            For the rights of worker, read all of scripture.

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