Since the word labor means to work, it seems odd to call a national holiday “work day.” The day is actually meant to be a break, or a rest, from one’s work. It’s also to be a day in which we acknowledge and honor those in the American workforce.
Both the United States and Canada recognize Labor Day on the first Monday of September. While it is a holiday, a rest from labor, over the years this day has become associated with many other things. It makrs the end of the summer and the beginning of school for many children. However, in recent years, with schools starting in August, Labor Day has become the first school holiday for many students.
Most people would agree that Labor Day marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall even in areas where summertime weather and fun stretches well into September and October. In generations past, Labor Day also marked an unspoken rule of not wearing white clothing beyond the summer months. Not so much anymore. That “rule” has been abandoned with an “anything goes” type of dress code.
I venture to say that all would agree Labor Day is a time for parties, parades, and other celebrations. Maybe it’s a time of rest, and perhaps many pause to remember and appreciate the workforce in our nation that has contributed to making our nation great.
A Rest from Work
In the late nineteenth century, during the United State’s Industrial Revolution, most jobs for average Americans were in manufacturing. The manufacturing jobs of that time were very different from the manufacturing jobs of today. People worked long hours (12 hour shifts and seven-day work weeks) with barely adequate pay to meet their basic needs. Safety codes and protective measures were almost nonexistent and children aged five and up were eligible to join the workforce, but for a much smaller paycheck under the same strenuous, unsafe working conditions.
Labor unions had existed since the end of the eighteenth century, but they had done little to improve working conditions. With the increase of oppressive working conditions, unions got better organized and their members became more vocal with protests, strikes, and rallies that were not always peaceful. In the 1894 Pullman Strike, thirty strikers were killed by the U.S. Army and Marshall Services. In that same year, Labor Day became a U.S. holiday.
God’s Labor Day
God foreordained such a day, but not just once a year. Following His six days of work in creation, God rested. And when He gave the Law to the nation of Israel, He commanded that His pattern of work, then rest, be followed:
Exo 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work
Exo 20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
Exo 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Work is important, but so also is rest. As Christians, we find our rest, not in a day but in the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb 4). Yet, a break from work is important for our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. God prescribed a day of rest for our benefit. So in this fast-paced world, when everything seems to move at a 24/7 rate of business, take time to rest.
On Labor Day, remember the labor force that has gone before and has made America a stronger, more prosperous nation. Determine to set a weekly “labor day,” when you make time for physical, mental, and emotional rest and rejuvenation. In that rest, remember the Lord and give thanks for His goodness and provisions in your life.
Work is an important part of life…but so also is rest.
Mat 11:28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Mat 11:29 “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.
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