“The worker is worthy of her pay.”
-I Timothy 5:18
I’ve really no more objection to a cookout on Labor Day than I have to a decorated tree at Christmas. In fact, I embrace both. But just as a decorated tree comes nowhere close to capturing the essence of the incarnation, so the tantalizing odors of the grill do no justice to the importance of human labor and the challenges that those who labor invariably face in seeking right recognition and compensation for their work.
The Bible doesn’t have much to say about labor, but what it does say is constructive and important and complex. We do well on this Labor Day weekend to reflect a bit on the intersection of faith and work.
First of all, work is honorable. A facile interpretation of the post-Edenic curse in Genesis 3 might lead to the conclusion that work is itself a consequence of disobedience. Certainly such reading is wrong. Work preceded the fall – Adam worked in the Garden long before he and Eve choose to defy God and set themselves up as demigods. But after their disobedience work apparently assumed a characteristic it had never before possessed – the potential to become drudgery – even to dehumanize. But work itself is not dishonorable – to the contrary, it is right and good and honorable.
Secondly, work is worthy of recognition. The most fundamental of such recognition is appropriate compensation for one’s toil. In indeed, the worker IS worthy of her pay. But she (and her brothers as well) is also order doxycycline online uk worthy of respect. Something is essentially wrong when the effort of any human being is reduced to a “means of production.” Human beings are intrinsically different than tools and material. Human beings may be a part of the equation that results in production, but they are NEVER fundamentally equivalent to material and tool. The worker is related to the creator in ways that tool and material are not. Any supervisor….any industry….any economic system that fails to grant that recognition is – at least from the perspective of faith – a flawed perspective.
Finally, work is not the essence of the worker. God, of course, is a worker. But God can never be reduced to and fully known in the results of God’s labor. Yes….much can be known about God through the creation, but that knowledge is ever and always limited. God is more than what God does, just as each and every human is more than what she does. It is precisely to this point that God enjoins “work stoppage” – that perplexing phenomenon we’ve learned to label “Sabbath.” Sabbath reminds us that while work is of fundamental value and importance, it is important only in a contingent sort of way – not in an ultimate sort of way.
Labor Day is a kind of secular “Sabbath.” That, I think, is a very good thing.
Blessings to each of you….workers, every one of you….but valued for your origin in the Godhead rather than in your production.
The UCC in Iowa