On June 24, 1894, The U.S. Congress passed legislation establishing the first Monday in the month of September as Labor Day, a national holiday. Laborers were often working lengthy hours and numerous shifts. Sometimes laborers would work twelve hours a day for six days a week. Prior to the establishment of child labor laws, children and youth were in the work force. The climate of the height of the industrial revolution led to the creation of the day, we all know as Labor Day.
The original pattern for Labor Day celebrations were parades in the cities and towns followed by speeches made by leaders of labor and industry. It is possible that my memory is not accurate, but I cannot recall attending any Labor Day parades or celebrations or hearing speeches. So, what happened to celebrating on Labor Day? Where are the parades? Where are speakers giving the speeches? Labor Day seems to have lost its original meaning and purpose in our land.
It is difficult for modern Americans to imagine the extremely high work ethic of our early immigrants to the United States and the eager work force willing to take on any job to earn a living. The history of Labor Day tells of an exhausted work force that existed in our land. I do not mean to suggest that current workers are not in need of a rest. However, due to the current crisis in our land many workers are laid off from their positions. And some laborers are still employed but with significantly reduced hours. So, the current problem is not an exhausted work force. Rather, the very nature of work, as the backbone of our economy, is threatened. A different type of pathogen, an economic pathogen, has infected the United States. Our prayers need to focus on economic recovery, as the impact of the crisis has started to hit small and mid-size businesses and the average worker.
With Labor Day before us on Sept. 7th, I would like to draw our attention to the Holy Scriptures about labor. Jesus told us: “Labor NOT for the meat which perishes, but for the meat that endures to everlasting life.” (John 6:27) So, based on the words of Jesus there are two kinds of meat. One kind of meat perishes. This recalls a story about a woman in a high rise for senior citizens. The woman left her apartment to go on a two-week vacation. She failed to tell her neighbors of her travels. A few days after her departure, the residents of the apartment complex smelled a strange and strong odor emanating from the woman’s apartment. The neighbors thought that perhaps the woman had passed away, and the smell was her decaying body. Much to their surprise, the neighbors discovered a large beef roast thawing in the dish cupboard. The woman began to thaw out the roast and forgot about the thawing meat before she departed on her vacation. The neighbors were glad to see the woman return to her apartment alive and well. But, the residents of the high rise thought the whole incident STUNK!
As we live and work out our Christian faith here on this earth, realize that there is meat which will not rot and stink. The meat is to do the will of God and serve the Lord Jesus Christ! Jesus spoke about the meat He loved to eat. Jesus said: “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34) Labor! Yes, work to have a good life here and now, but never forget that our labors must be directed to the eternal.
Pastor Ken Chorle