Labor Day is one of those special American holidays that we all enjoy. We mark the end of summer by it, though fall doesn’t begin for several more weeks. This is the time we get back into our non-summer routines and school is now in session for most students and teachers. It is also a time for one final long weekend.
In the liturgy of my own church the benediction from yesterday’s worship said it well:
In the name of Jesus Christ, the carpenter’s son, let your labors be for the glory of God and for the common good.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Mary’s son, let all of your living be for love.
In the name of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, let our labor not be for a paycheck but for a world changed by God’s love and justice.
May God, Creator of the universe, maker and shaper of all things, bless you labor as well as your rest. May the Son of God, the son of a carpenter, bless all of the work that you do. May the Holy Spirit, ever working for the new creation, bless your service and keep you in God’s purpose, now and forevermore.
I am reminded, by such a solid and theologically based expression of prayer, of just how weak my own childhood tradition was in handling the question of work done by Christians. There were at least three examples of this that are common to evangelical Pietism. (1) Work is only a means to an end, make money so that you can pay the bills and serve God in other ways. Many Christian conservatives still teach this in various forms. (2) Labor unions, and various expressions of work solidarity, are wrong. Christians should submit to their employers in such a manner that all efforts to improve working conditions are seen as a waste of time, if not outright rebellion. (3) Work is entirely secular, thus far less important, than ministry, mission or evangelism, which are all seen as sacred.
Don’t you think that the liturgical benediction expresses a much better approach to labor and rest?
John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at “encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening.” His home blog is located here.