By Rev. Mark H. Creech, Executive Director
Christian Action League
Edwin Markham, in his poem “The Man with the Hoe” speaks of the laborer:
Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back the burden of the world.
How ironic the very thing our nation will honor on Monday, September 6, Labor Day, is the direct result of man’s rebellion against God. Originally, man dwelt in a beautiful garden, Eden, which he tended. But now, because of his sin, man would earn his bread by burdensome toil. God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life” (Gen. 3:17). God would curse the ground so it would bring forth thorns and work against man. Man would labor, sweat and weep, until the day he returned to the dust of the ground from which he came (18-19).
The Scriptures plainly teach God intends for us to labor. Yet the Bible also teaches there is dignity in all honest work (Eph. 4:28, I Thess. 4:11). Work is a part of God’s order for creation. It should be meaningful and creative. Moreover, each person is responsible first to God for their labor, then to their employer and perhaps even to their fellow-workers (Col. 3:17).
It is the labor of untold millions of Americans, both men and women that has produced unequalled prosperity for this great land. Only as we remember the value of hard work can we remain a strong and determined people.
That’s why Labor Day should be a national holiday. It’s a day for parades and special observances – a day for rest and relaxation – a day to escape the hectic work week – a day to say thank you to America’s labor force – a day to momentarily lift life’s burdens for the laborer.
Yet despite all the advances made by and for working people, this year’s Labor Day celebrations will do little, if anything, to lift their burden. Many are heavy laden with the cares of life. Some are unemployed and have tremendous financial worries. The current national unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent. North Carolina’s unemployment rate is close to 8 percent.
Still some are experiencing the pain of something emotional – a divorce – a wayward child – a friend’s betrayal. And then there are those who are sick – some facing a terminal illness. Like Atlas with the world on his shoulders many are bowed low beneath the labor of such burdens and for them there will be no rest this Labor Day.
Yet it was to such people Jesus called, saying, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30).
What qualifies Christ to make that promise and then be able to keep it? The answer is in his person – the Son of God – the second Adam – the God man -that was made a “curse” for us (Gal. 3:13). The Bible teaches that in the agony of his labor, Jesus sweat as it were drops of blood from his brow (Lk. 22:44), and “offered up prayers and supplications” with great weeping and tears (Heb. 5:7). He bore the curse for our transgressions, and even wore the “thorns” of the curse as his crown (Mk. 15:17). Finally, in our stead, while we were yet sinners, God brought him down into the “dust of death” (Rom. 5:8, Ps. 22:14) that we might enter into the rest of God and forever be free from the curse.
Although the complete removal of the curse awaits the second coming of Christ to purge and renew the earth (2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 21:1-5), he has already paid in full for this redemption (I Pet. 1:18-20). Therefore, its results can be appropriated by faith now. Meaning, we can be in sorrow, “yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). Like the apostle Paul, we can endure life’s “thorn in the flesh” with Christ’s sufficient grace and perfecting strength (2 Cor. 12:7-9). Though our labor ceases not “night and day…with tears,” yet there is rest in him (Acts 20:31); and though we too face being brought down to the “dust of death,” we can know the power of his resurrection (Phil. 3:10).
No wonder Jesus could say, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt. 11:28). No matter what your position is this Labor Day weekend, Christ’s invitation is still extended today.
To the employer and the employee, Jesus says, “Come unto me….and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). To the manufacturer, Jesus says, “Come.” To the farmer, Jesus says, “Come.” To the merchant, Jesus says, “Come.” To the unemployed, Jesus says, “Come.” To the one mistreated on the job, Jesus says, “Come.” To all those who labor, Jesus offers rest. Not just any rest, but the rest of God.
Happy Labor Day!!!