For the Love of Labor
Give us this day our Daily Bread. (Luke 11:3)
September 5 is Labor Day. The first Labor Day celebration was held on September 5, 1882 at the prompting of the Central Labor Union of New York City. At the time, working conditions and morale among workers were extremely low. The leaders were looking for a way to honor the economic and Social achievements of the American worker. The idea gradually spread to other cities and states. On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act decreeing the first Monday in September as a legal and national holiday.
Rather than merely taking a day off, we can also raise morale in our labor by recognizing it as a gift from God. In his explanation to the 4th petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Martin Luther says, “Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body.” To the question, “How does God provide our daily bread?”, Luther reminds us God makes the earth fruitful and blesses us with the ability to work for the things we need. Our response then is two-fold. First, we pray in this petition that we would recognize all we have is a gift from a loving God and second, that we would receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
We see these principles at work in the assigned Gospel readings for this month. The reading for September 4 is from Luke 14, where Jesus defines discipleship as submitting one’s entire life and work to the glory of God. The next week, September 11, Jesus calls His followers to give thanks to a God who loves them with great passion and devotion. The theme of labor returns on September 18 in the parable of the shrewd manager found in the beginning of Luke 16. God has and will provide daily bread, but expects us to show our thankfulness by managing it properly. The end result of all our labor is revealed in the last week of September as we hear the story of the rich man and Lazarus from the end of Luke 16.
I realize most of the people reading this article are retired. Regardless of your status, we all share a vocation. As baptized and believing Christians, our vocation is to labor for the cause of Christ. This is difficult. Often, we don’t see much result from our labor. Remembering God’s labor of love for us in sending his Son, Jesus, to bring forgiveness, life and salvation to us through His death and resurrection brings strength and motivation to our hearts and lives. This same God will continue to provide all we need for this life and the life to come. In response to His labor of love, let us love our labor as we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
In His service and yours,
Pastor Mark R. Rhoads