Monday, September 6, 2010

Theology of Work on the Day Celebrating Workers

On Labor Day weekend, it seems appropriate to blog for a moment about work.  I say this as I listen to the neighborhood lawn care guys mowing, edging, and blowing so they don't get behind this week in their HOA-determined rotation.  I appreciate the fact that there are people all over the United States working on Labor Day, some of whom are there not by choice but necessity in order to keep jobs that feed families.

Paul says in Colossians 3.23, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men."  That verse comes in the context of other employer-employee principles found in the master-slave passages of the NT.  For those whose hair on the back of their necks just stood up, please note that while not a direct correlation, the best analogy we can find for those passages is the employer-employee relationship.  For more information, see this link to the commentary on Colossians and Philemon by my seminary prof, David Garland.

As to the passage, let me encourage you to look at three things.

First, look at the inclusiveness of this:  whatever you do.  That means serve as a pastor, physical therapist, photographer, yard guy, salesman, policeman, lawyer, garbageman, doctor, nurse, receptionist, clerk, pharmacist, or rocket scientist (and all in between).  There are quite literally hundreds of thousands of things that can be done to honor Christ in the workforce.  Martin Luther taught that even the milkmaid (the lowest of occupations in the 1500's) loves her neighbor by collecting milk.  And Luther again:  as long as what you do can be done in love for God and neighbor, it is an honorable occupation.  Amen.

Second, look at the intensity of this:  work heartily, or from the heart.  From the inner core of who you are, work.  Don't read "heart" and think "emotions" or "affections."  The biblical heart is the deepest part of the human nature.  Work from there.  There is a passion and unction and perseverance that dwells in the heart which is to show up in our work.  Even in the dullest or most trying times, work hard and well.

Third, the motivation:  as for the Lord and not for men.  Why do you work hard, from the heart when it's tough and dry and no fun?  Because you're not working primarily for you, me, your company, your stockholders, your coworkers, your contractors, or anyone else.  You're working for the Lord.  And it is from the Lord that you will receive reward (v.24).

So happy Labor Day everyone.  Labor well for Jesus' sake.

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