“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him LABOR, working with his hand THE THING WHICH IS GOOD (HONEST), that he may have to give to him that needeth.” (KJV)
Rudyard Kipling reminds us that “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, How Beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.” Beauty and work go together! This makes Labor Day – a day about work, yet without work – seem like a contradiction. Until we remember that it is intended to honor those who give HONEST LABOR. Labor is basic to any community. Each of us has a part. There is no “better than” or “worse than.” Unless we all work for the common good, there won’t be any. All HONEST LABOR contributes to the general well-being.
St. Paul highlights the real problem in Ephesians 4:28: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him LABOR, working with his hand THE THING WHICH IS GOOD (HONEST), that he may have to give to him that needeth.” (KJV). I have added the emphases because the opposite of labor is stealing.
The Lord didn’t burden us with work. He blessed us with it as a way to express and fulfill ourselves and also be able to help others. One of the sin-curses God pronounced in the Garden of Eden was that labor would be toilsome (Genesis 3:19) instead of always joyful. As Savior, one of blessings Jesus wants to give back to people is HONEST LABOR. A Christian can see work as one sign of the renewed life. That is the meaning of “that he may have to give to him that needeth.” Whether it is a special donation to the needy, or a good day’s work for the company; a helping hand for a co-worker or friend, or a task for the community – we are called to share God’s love through our HONEST LABOR.
Matthew Maguire, a machinist from Paterson, NJ, and Peter J. McGuire, a New York City carpenter, were leaders in staging the first Labor Day Parade in New York City in September 1882. President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a national holiday in 1894. (World Book Encyclopedia, 1993 Edition) Yet Labor Day is not just about celebrating those who work, or getting away from work for a day. It can be a time to thank God that we are able to serve Him with the HONEST LABOR of our hands, minds and hearts.
One last thought: HONEST LABOR contributes to peace and harmony. “The person who rows the boat usually doesn’t have time to rock it.” At times the worst complainers in the home, office, community, or church are those who are not doing the work. The next time we catch ourselves complaining, ask if we are honestly working to accomplish something for God and the common good. Often we need to challenge ourselves to do what God has given us and leave the rest to Him.
A prayer: Dear Lord, make us people who are happy for the blessing of HONEST LABOR. Help us see ourselves as yours servants. Let us enjoy this weekend of rest so that we may be refreshed and renewed to serve You and others. In Jesus name. Amen!
Michael E. Ramming
Pastor, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church-LCMS,