Summary: Labor Day
OUR WORK MATTERS TO GOD
I recently read that including commuting time, the average American works about 50 hours a week. What studies actually show is that the percentage of people working longer hours has grown significantly over the past 10 years but at the same time those working less hours has grown at the same rate.
This tells us a lot about what is going on in society right now including the fact that most of us are spending most of our waking hours working at our jobs. We are a working society.
Our culture places great emphasis on our employment. One of the first questions we ask someone is: What kind of work do you do? In one nursing home that I used to visit there was a sign on each residents door that gave the person’s name and former occupation; for example, Jane Smith; Teacher.
Even though we are a society that values employment and the opportunity to pursue the career of our choice, most persons are unhappy in their jobs. Studies show that most people will not only change jobs but will change careers two or three times in their lifetime. When I was in seminary most of my peers were in their 40’s, just beginning their work in the ministry. Some had been pharmacists, teachers, coaches, one was a medical doctor. Most beginning clergy today are middle aged.
I read one study this week that was startling. it suggested that most Americans were not only unhappy in their work but that 80% of working Americans felt they were presently occupying a job that was wrong for them!
With statistics like this it is safe to assume that many of us are discontent with our jobs. We are not as happy with what we do as we feel we should be. Does the Bible offer us any guidance in regard to our jobs? I believe it does.
In order for us to really begin to enjoy our jobs we need to realize that our work matters to God. Sometimes we convince ourselves that all God is interested in is the spiritual and moral side of our life; whether we are saying our prayers and avoiding sin. But God is interested in every dimension, in every aspect of our life including our work. In fact the Bible goes to great lengths to show us that God understands what it means to work. God is presented as a working God from the very beginning. In the creation story of Genesis 2 we read:
By the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Perhaps the greatest compliment God made to us was sending us a Savior who knew what it meant to work with his hands. Jesus was a carpenter and knew the constant demands of labor. Perhaps Henry Van Dyke expressed it well in his poem, "The Toiling of Felix", when he wrote:
This is the gospel of labor, ring it, ye bells of the kirk!
The Lord of love came down from above, to live with the men who work.
This is the rose that He planted, here in in thorn-crust soil:
Heaven’s blest with perfect rest, but the blessing of earth is toil.