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September 6, 2020   The Blessing of Labor

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Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

Colossians 3:  “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,   since as members of one body  you were called to peace.    And be thankful.    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly  as you teach and admonish one another  with all wisdom,   and as you sing psalms,  hymns  and spiritual songs  with gratitude in your hearts to God.    And whatever you do,   whether in word or deed,  do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,  giving thanks to God the Father thru him.”

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By God’s grace,  tomorrow we observe Labor Day,  to honor our country’s working men & women.   It used to be that Labor unions sponsored various celebrations & parades.   For the most part,  Labor Day  has now become a long weekend for relaxation,  family gatherings, & to mark the end of the summer.    Historically,  two men have been credited with suggesting a holiday to honor working people in the United States:  Matthew Maguire,  a machinist from New Jersey;  and Peter McGuire,  a New York City carpenter.  Both men helped arrange for the first Labor Day parade in New York City in September of 1882.   President Grover Cleveland signed a bill twelve years later making it a national holiday,  in 1894.

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As Christians,  *how do we view WORK?  *Do we see ourselves as ‘hired help’ or ‘forced labor’;   is our work is a daily grind;  is it a necessary evil  so that we can have enough money to buy fun stuff,  or retire & finally enjoy life?   Younger people often see work as a ‘grind’  because they’re not yet doing the kind of work they dream of doing.   So they get any job,  just to pay the bills,  and that can become a drudgery.

But, IF we see work as a ‘drag’,  THEN we’re not seeing it as a big part of our life in honor to God.  After all,  He’s the One who gave us the ‘labor’ portion of daily life,  with our skills & interests.  Young people aren’t the only ones who miss this connection.  *What do you see as God’s involvement in your job & work?   Or *is He just involved in your ‘church’ life?

As always,  God’s Holy Word sees things in the right perspective.

In His Bible  we find many examples of how our Lord wants us to conform our attitudes to fit His concept of work.   It is true  that God wants us to find rest or relaxation to enjoy our family & friends,  and all of His creation.   But that doesn’t mean that we should see our work  as the opposite of enjoyment.    Quite the contrary!

God wants us to find a faithful contentment in everything we do;  to approach our daily tasks with a glad heart = whether our work is  /the book-studies of a student,  /or child-raising,  /in the homemaking essential for every family,  /or a job in an office, in a store, a factory or farm.    God says thru Paul:   “Whatever you do,  do it ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus,  giving thanks to God the Father thru him.”    This is because our labors are TWO THINGS.

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Thing # 1,  is that our labors are Good For Us == for our earthly purpose.  This is one reason why the doctrine of Creation  is important for us;  it shows us our original purpose.

In the beginning,  God created a perfect world = perfect in form & function.  In Genesis 1,  10-times we read the phrase,  “God said,  Let there be…and it was so.”   That phrase speaks of God at work = 6 labor-days.    In His work of creating,  God put everything in perfect order:   /the heavens & the earth,  /the sun, moon & stars,  /the seas & everything in them,  /the land, plants, & animals.   The crown of God’s labor was humans.  With His own almighty hand,  God formed man from the dust of the earth,  to bear His image,  with a living soul.  “Male & female He created them”,  says Gen.1 = 2 genders.   Then God made one day out of seven for ‘rest.’

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So, with His image,  God did not create man & woman to just sit around.    In Gen.1,  God gives Adam & Eve directions for WORK.    With 3 JOBS:  #1)  they are to be fruitful & multiply (that’s the at-home-work),  #2)  they are to rule over the land, the birds, the fish, & every living creature on the earth;   and #3) they are to use creation & care for all of it.

Vs.15 says,   “The Lord God took the man  and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it,  and take care of it.” 

So work is not an invention of man,  to keep himself busy & get him stuff;   it is ordained by God.   So,  God blesses the various labors of people everywhere,  where those labors obey His teachings of what is right & wrong.   This was His perfect design of creation!

        And,  of course,  this design was ruined by sin.   Thru sin,  work has become difficult.   Adam & Eve gave-in to the temptations of Satan = the evil one.   Doubting God’s Word & instructions,  they wanted to be more than what God designed them to be.   How sinfully arrogant  for the creature to declare that the Divine Creator goofed-up,  & didn’t do His work right.  *Have you ever thought God designed you wrong?

So our first parents disobeyed the command of God.   After their sinful act,  God said to Eve,  “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing”  = pain in job #1.   And for jobs #2 & 3,  God said to Adam,  “Cursed is the ground because of you;  thru painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.    It will produce thorns & thistles for you  (literal & emotional thorns);  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 shall return.”      Work,  before the fall,  was  100% joyful & fulfilling,  an unhindered blessing from God;  work after the fall  is more tiring & harder because of sin;   BUT,  it’s still God’s blessed design for earthly life.

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So,  any problem we have with ‘work,’   is because of sin & its effects.   Our attitude toward God,  toward our neighbor,  & toward our labors have been warped by sin.  It’s distorted when we view our work only as a burden;   when we slog our way thru the week,   just to get money & a weekend off.   When we despise the ‘working time’  God gave us,  we’ll be tempted to sin in laziness,  sloppiness, & mistreating fellow workers & customers.   When we complain,  we may be discouraging others  from enjoying the good labor God has given to them.

The answer to our sin-problem -in our labor- is the same answer  as in other sin-problems.  Scripture tells us:   “for just as thru  the disobedience of the one man,  the many were made sinners;    so also thru the obedience of the One Man,  the many will be made righteous.” (Rom.5:19)     The contrast is very clear.  +Adam introduced sin & death into the world;  but Jesus Christ brings righteousness & life.    +Adam brought condemnation;  but Jesus Christ brings justification.  +Adam died,  and returned to the dust;  but after Jesus took all of our sins upon himself & died,  He rose in glory = so that we would rise in Him to New Life = not just in eternal & heavenly life one day.   Our New Life includes all the areas of our living.  As the Holy Spirit gives us faith to believe in Jesus’ labor of mercy for us sinners thru the cross,   so also the cross redeems our work-life.

As a result,  by the Holy Spirit,  we learn the desire to serve our Lord  in everything we do.    Thru your Baptism in Christ  the ‘image of God’ is restored to you,  & it changes your actions & attitudes.  The children of God -once again- view work as a blessing of God.  It’s an opportunity for us to thank God,  and serve our neighbor = work is purpose & life.

Now,  work is not just something to DO  so we can have a home,  food & clothing.  But,  as Paul wrote in Colossians,  “…obey your earthly masters  in everything;   …… with sincerity of heart  and reverence for the Lord.    Whatever you do,  work at it with all your heart,   as working for the Lord,  not for men;   since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.    It is the Lord Christ  you are serving.    

By His grace in Christ,  God has saved us from both earthly uselessness and eternal condemnation.   Now we understand that we are God’s workmanship,  created in Christ Jesus to do good works,  which God prepared in advance for us to do = says Eph.2.    So,  point # 1   is that work,  our daily labor,  is good for us = for our earthly purpose.   And so our attitude toward work  reflects our faith in Christ,  as we live for Him  in His creation.

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And this leads us to point #2:  Work is an opportunity for us to witness to God’s goodness & purpose for all people.  We are not just witnessing to God when we are in church for public worship.  Here we confess His priority to our lives for one hour;  *what about the other 100-plus waking hours each week?   That time of interacting with others  & helping/assisting others is important, too.   Our work-life becomes the main opportunity for us  to witness to the goodness, purpose, & mercy of God  in this life.

As Christians,  work is the daily opportunity TO BE God’s people in the world,  bringing His kingdom to bear upon the world;  that God would bless the fallen world by the faith-filled & moral ways of God’s people.

Our God cares about each of us,  & what we do.  He proved that by sending a Savior who gave us this new life.  So Paul says,  “Let the peace of God rule your hearts…whatever you do,  whether in word or deed,   do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”    Here he uses a Greek verb ‘rule’  which means  ‘Be the umpire or judge’ = to decide,  to control,  make a ruling.   Let the peace of God umpire your hearts.   Christianity is not just a ‘church thing’;  this faith is to control & umpire every aspect of our daily living.

We have umpires in baseball,  behind the plate,  & in the field.   They calls strikes & balls & fouls;  they tell the players if they’re safe or out.  His decision is final.   Without the umpire,  baseball would fall into chaos.  Our lives of purpose & peace will fall apart without our umpire.   By the gospel of our forgiveness & future in Christ,  the peace of God is our umpire.

It tells us that we’re safe in the loving arms of The One who has gone to bat for us,  to hit us home.    Jesus gives us His Word & Spirit,  so that His peace is the umpire in everything we do & say;    whether at home,  at church,  with family & friends,  & even especially all the time we spend at work.   Our work-time is big opportunity for us to be God’s people.

This is why the Lord tells us to  ‘serve whole-heartedly,  as if you were serving the Lord, not men’ = says Eph.6    Every work,  low or high,  can & should be done for the Lord.

Martin Luther thought about this.  He said,  “the housemaid on her knees scrubbing the floor 

is doing a work  as pleasing in the eye of almighty God  as the priest on his knees before the altar saying Mass.”        It’s good to be reminded that the lowly employee,  construction worker,  farmer,  school student,  homemaker,  & retiree-volunteer  are all doing works  as pleasing in the eye of almighty God  as the wall-street CEOs,  the mighty politicians,  brain surgeons & rocket scientists.

So as God’s people in Christ,  we should ask ourselves,  ‘Does my attitude please my Lord;  the One who has placed me in my work?’   ‘Do I present myself as a man//woman of God at my work?   ‘Am I one person at work & another at church?    ‘am I working for the Lord?’

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People say that it’s ironic/weird that on Labor Day we don’t do any ‘labor’ or work.

But we know that a holiday can help us be rejuvenated for our labor.  Of course,  Christians already have one day each week  as a day of rest & rejuvenation = The Lord’s Day = here as we worship our Creator and Savior.   Here we give thanks for BOTH  our salvation,  and for the renewed purpose of our Monday thru Saturday work-life.

Enjoy your ‘Labor Day.’  Give thanks to God  who gives you abilities & purpose to all your labor.   Know that  “….whatever you do,  whether in word or deed,  do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,   giving thanks to God the Father thru him.”

Amen