Why Labor Day isn’t a four-day weekend

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Labor Day is filled with paradoxes.

Begin with the name. We honor America’s 160 million laborers by giving them a day free from labor, then we call their holiday “Labor Day.”

However, the name is unfortunately appropriate for our largest labor group: retail employees. They will have one of their longest workdays today as Americans flood into stores for Labor Day sales.

Labor Day could have led to a four-day weekend, but Congress intervened. The first Labor Day was on a Tuesday in 1882. In 1894, Congress moved the holiday to the first Monday in September. When you go back to work tomorrow, blame them.

God “will neither slumber nor sleep”

The good news is that the Lord doesn’t need a Labor Day. Scripture consistently proclaims the omnipotence of the One who “will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).

We can respond to God’s work in the world in three ways.

We can ignore him. We can separate Sunday from Monday, the “spiritual” from “secular,” religion from the “real world.” This is what millions of people who attended church services yesterday will do tomorrow. They see no overlap between their worship and their work. Of course, they forfeit the guidance and empowering of our omniscient, omnipotent Lord.

We can oppose him. We can actively reject his word and will, choosing to be our own God (Genesis 3:5) and working against his kingdom on earth. Of course, no one, from the devil (Revelation 12:7-9) to the most depraved human (Matthew 8:28-32), can defeat the only King of the universe.

We can work as he works. We can join him as he extends his kingdom on earth, using our influence and resources as his Spirit leads and empowers us. This is the only way to redeem our work for eternity and leave a legacy that matters.

How do we join God at work?

“Something greater than ourselves”

My wife and I joined the millions who watched John McCain’s televised funeral in Washington National Cathedral on Saturday. It was one of the most remarkable services I’ve ever witnessed. Two presidents delivered eulogies; congressional leaders from across the political spectrum attended.

An especially profound message was delivered by Dr. Henry Kissinger, the ninety-four-year-old former Secretary of State. Consider this paragraph:

“Honor, it is an intangible quality, not obligatory. It has no code. It reflects an inward compulsion, free of self interest. It fulfills a cause, not a personal ambition. It represents what a society lives for beyond the necessities of the moment. Love makes life possible; honor and nobility. For John it was a way of life.”

Dr. Kissinger then quoted a statement made by McCain in a commencement speech at Ohio’s Wesleyan University: “No one of us, if they have character, leaves behind a wasted life.” Dr. Kissinger commented: “Like most people of my age I feel a longing for what is lost and cannot be restored. If the happy and casual beauty of youth prove ephemeral, something better can endure and endure until our last moment on Earth and that is the moment in our lives when we sacrifice for something greater than ourselves.”

Three simple choices

When we join God at work, we serve “something greater than ourselves”–the advancement of his kingdom on earth (Matthew 6:10). To serve this cause, consider three simple decisions.

One: Believe God can use your life for eternal significance.

We live in an “existentialist” age in which many people see life as chaotic, random, and fleeting. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (Isaiah 22:13) is the mantra of the day. But God has endowed you with spiritual gifts and entrusted you with resources of time, possessions, and influence that he can use to make a lasting difference for humanity. Value yourself as he values you.

Two: Ask his Spirit to empower you every day.

We require God’s power to fulfill God’s purpose. Being “filled” or controlled by the Spirit is not an option–it is a biblical imperative (Ephesians 5:18). Charles Spurgeon testified: “I have a great need for Christ; I have a great Christ for my need.” Ask the Spirit to empower you every day, beginning today.

Three: See the people you know as your mission field.

“The world is passing away along with its desires” (1 John 2:17). Every person you meet this week will live with God eternally or be separated from him forever. Invest in eternity by investing in the people you influence.

A masquerading missionary

Vocation comes from the Latin, meaning “calling.” There is no biblical distinction between “secular” and “spiritual” vocations–all are God’s calling for his people.

This fact makes you a missionary masquerading as a teacher, student, businessperson, writer, or whatever your vocation may be.

Henry Kissinger ended his tribute to John McCain by noting that the senator’s memorial service “bestowed on us a much needed moment of unity and renewed faith in the possibilities of America.” He then concluded: “Henceforth, the country’s honor is ours to sustain.”

Beginning today.