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So Just What Is Labor Day?

As we get ready to celebrate Labor Day, do you know its history and meaning? According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is the creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

There is debate as to whether Peter McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) or Matthew Maguire, who was secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York, first proposed this holiday to celebrate the labor force. Again, according to U.S. DOL, the form of the celebration was to be a street parade followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of workers and their families. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on September 5, 1882. Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a state holiday and in 1894 President Grover Cleveland made it a national holiday.

Here is a little known bit of information – In 1909, the AFL designated the Sunday preceding Labor Day to be Labor Sunday, a day “dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.” It was meant to be a day for churches to pray for workers and to raise congregations’ awareness of issues of injustice surrounding workers’ rights and wages.

Now that you know the history and meaning of Labor Day, let us shift gears and focus on a verse found in John Chapter 6. Verse 27 says this, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

First, let us say what this verse does not mean. It is not saying that you are not to work hard to earn a living for you and our family. This is not a verse advocating laziness or sloth. In fact, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 the apostle Paul says this, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Then what exactly is this verse telling us? What it does say is that you are not to focus upon your ability to work for anything more than meeting your “earthly” needs, because your job (or your ability to earn a living) can be gone in the blink of an eye; it can “spoil.” Jesus is telling us that we are to put our faith and trust in Him for meeting all our needs, including our ability to work and earn a living. Later on in that same section of scripture Jesus says this, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (Jn 6:35).” To read this story in its context, we encourage you to take a few minutes and read John 6:25-59.

So, this Labor Day, as you celebrate the social and economic achievements of the American workforce, remember this – take a break from your hard work, celebrate your success and accomplishments, and most of all, rely on Jesus for your strength, prosperity, and well-being.

Dave Garrett

New Bern, North Carolina


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