Genesis 35:16 – Then they journeyed from Bethel. And when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel laboured in childbirth, and she had hard labour. (NKJV)
Psalm 104:23 – Man goes out to his work and to his labour until the evening. (NKJV)
Exodus 1:11 – Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labour. (NRSV)
Psalm 127:1 – Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it. (NKJV)
Today is the day that many of us celebrate as Labour Day. As I was thinking about this day, I got to wondering what this day really means to people.
For many here in North America, it is the last long weekend of the summer — time to get to the cottage, or away somewhere for the last holiday before school or returning to the regular work schedules.
For many women, and maybe their husbands, the image of labour summons up an entirely different image, like the image of Rachel as she laboured in childbirth. I know that I can, and, I hope, always will, remember my wife in child labour and the birth of our son, and some years later, the birth of our daughter. Such a wonderful gift of God, the birth of a child — made harder because of the great fall — but still a wonderful gift.
Many people will, today, relate to Psalm 104. They labour each year to feed and clothe themselves and their families, and today that labour is celebrated. I can remember, when I lived near Toronto, Ontario, Canada, going to the Canadian National Exhibition on Labour Day to watch the big Labour Day parade. Many of the large unions have floats, bands and marchers in this parade. At that time I worked for the Canadian Post Office and I belonged to one of those unions.
For some people, today may or not be a holiday because they work in forced labour. There are people in this country who work in what we call "sweat shops". They are forced into long hours of labour with very little pay. Others in the world are forced into labour that benefits them almost nothing but pays their bosses great dividends. I have never been in one of those situations, and I wonder what those who are think of Labour Day. To some of them it may be a day that is despised — not a holiday, like it is to many of us.
Now that I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Labour Day has a very different meaning to me. Labour Day is every day. It is the day that I wake up and God uses me to do his labour. The physical rewards are often not what I would like; the monetary reward is often low, but I am doing God's labour. The greatest reward will be when I appear before God and He says to me the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant … Enter into the joy of your lord." (Matthew 25:21 NKJV)
On this Labour Day it is my wish that in all our labours we will see the hand of God.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, today many of us celebrate Labour Day. We ask for your blessing upon us and upon our labours whatever they may be. May we always seek to labour for you. May each and every one of us, in the end, hear you call us "good and faithful" servants, and rejoice as we enter into your joy. Amen.