Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day, Albert Mohler, and the Dignity of Work

By Kristen Wetherell
Thank you, Dr. Mohler, for getting my wheels turning this weekend.
On Friday's edition of "The Briefing*," you challenged and encouraged Christians to ponder several thoughts regarding the nature of work and the annual Labor Day Americans celebrate. I confess I'm one of those people who has viewed the holiday merely as an opportunity for an extra day of rest and recreation, away from the workplace...without ever considering the reasoning behind why we, as a nation, partake in such a significant day.

Firstly, thanks. I appreciate you calling upon believers to slow down and become intentionally thoughtful about the God-given dignity of labor. This exhortation struck me on a personal level, as I'd been asking these very questions as of late--specifically about how the gospel of Jesus Christ applies to work, and my attitudes and actions therein. 

Here are several of the questions you posed to listeners on Friday, and some personal responses about each one:

ONE: What is the meaning of work? God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, did just that in the beginning: He created. He worked to bring into existence that which did not exist. For six days, the Bible tells us, God raised up the earth and its every inhabitant, with the climax reached in the forming of Adam, the first man, and his helper Eve, the first woman. We are told that man was created in the image of God; therefore, if God worked and created with purpose as an outpouring and expression of His divine nature, mankind should also fulfill his God-given responsibility to work and create, as an expression of the Creator, who is to be worshiped and obeyed. 

Work is both a gift and an opportunity to reflect the awesome, sovereign God whom we worship and fear. Work is to accomplish His great, all-wise purposes in the world, even those we cannot understand right now because of our limited human wisdom.

TWO: What is the contribution of labor to American society? Now, I'm not going to pretend I know more than I actually do in regards to American history and how labor has impacted it, and vice-versa. (I never took very excitedly to History classes...sorry, teachers of mine.) But I will make an overarching observation: the value of work, given to us by the Lord, is innately known by mankind. This is why low employment rates cause Washington to fret and why job creation causes society to applaud. 

But just because it is known does not mean it is understood. Men are without excuse when it comes to understanding God the Creator, as Romans 1:20 tells us. Why is this? "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made" (v.21). 

Again, creation. The heart of sinful man does not honor God as Creator and Lord, so he has his heart darkened and his thinking is made futile. Therefore, the beauty and dignity of work as a means to reflect God, express His being, and glorify Him is lost in our sinful rebellion. 

Our society clearly honors the "inherent dignity" of work, as seen in the way high and low employment rates affect the rest of society's workings. But a more important reality is that it is simultaneously neglecting, even resisting, the Source of such a valuable and necessary societal contribution as man's labor. Work has become about us.

THREE: What does it mean to be faithful in our work? Oh, this question has been the cry of my heart these last few months! I'm still sorting through it, and will be until I go home, but I know without a doubt that the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks directly into the work of believers, especially in regards to our attitudes towards it. 

Here's what I've come to understand recently: Faithfulness in our work correlates both to the fullness of our submission to Jesus Christ as our Lord and the depth of our trust in Him as our Savior. 

In other words, if I'm working heartily as unto God; if I'm more concerned about delighting Him and honoring Him than I am with pleasing man; if I'm not placing highest value on the attainment of my own "satisfaction" or "fulfillment," then I am saying in essence this:

"I believe that the gospel applies even to my labor. I trust that my God, who showed His love for me by sending His Son to die on the cross, is not neglecting to love me and grow me and see through His purposes even in this part of earthly life. There is no separating faith and work...

"Because I trust in His unfailing love and wise purposes, I will gladly submit to His lordship and put the pedal to the metal in whatever task I'm seeking to complete: whether scrubbing toilets, or teaching first graders, or selling insurance, or leading a corporation." 

I believe that being faithful in our work means believing the gospel even there, and so, to live it out accordingly, trusting Christ and submitting to Him in all circumstances, with glad hearts, understanding that our labor reflects our magnificent Creator.

So, praise be to God, and thanks again, Dr. Mohler, for spurring on these important thoughts. What a magnificent Creator we serve and worship, with all joy and delight, to the glory of Jesus Christ!

Almighty Creator God, We praise You for sending Christ to earth, for His humility in walking as we do, in the flesh, yet without sin. We thank You for showing Your love for us by His death on the cross, while we were still resistant rebels. Help us to work hard, no matter what type of labor, so that we may reflect You and bring You glory. Give us wisdom to see how Your great love for us spurs us onward to work with all of our might. In Jesus' name,

Amen. 

[*This episode of "The Briefing" aired Friday, August 29, 2014. | Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos]

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