This month we’ll observe Labor Day. In America we have a long tradition of honoring
labor, but it’s interesting to note that this hasn’t always been the
case in other parts of the world and in other eras of history. There was a
time in England when part of what made a person a gentleman or gentlewoman was
that they abstained from manual labor. Likewise, the Greek philosophers
argued that they needed slaves to do the manual work so they could have
time to develop virtue.
However, the biblical picture is of God’s creating human beings, in part, to work the
garden (Genesis 2:15). The idea being that manual labor was something prelapsarian,
a fancy word for according to God’s original purpose and not a result of
sin. God meant for us to work.
It is certainly the case that our bodies are healthier when they are worked.
Just today I read the headline, “Couch potatoes are 7 times more likely to
suffer a stroke than more physically active people”. I learned this the hard
way in that I found myself becoming unhealthy because of all the sitting I
do as a pastor (while studying, while in a church meeting, while driving to
make a visit and while visiting people). I have since learned that I can do
much of my studying while walking and holding a tablet computer, and I’m much
healthier for it.
It is surely the case that much of modern manual labor can be boring and repetitive. (It was
just announced that Elon Musk is developing a robot to do much of that kind
of work for us.) However, at its best, manual labor was meant to be a
source of satisfaction through the experience of a sense of accomplishment.
God meant for us to contribute our part to the world he made, and there will always be a need for
laborers of some sort. As Christians we recognize that they are God’s means of
providing for his world. Likewise, when we exert physical effort, to clean
and repair our homes and property or to care and raise children, for
example, we are contributing something of value and fulfilling part of our
God-given purpose for being on this earth. We’re contributing to furthering
God’s original intention for his creation, and there is a God-given dignity
conferred on such efforts.
Whatever work you do, may God bless you in your labors and may you find fulfillment
by doing your work, whatever it is, as a means of “serving the Lord”
Blessings to you all!