It’s September – and September brings us to a typically cooler time of year. The first Monday of September marks a special holiday, Labor Day. Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894.
Labor Day originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages.
People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks. As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.
The extraordinary events of the past year due to the pandemic have put a tremendous strain on nearly every working person. Labor Day is a timeout to give thanks to all who have labored in difficult situations. I think Colossians 3:23 sums up the attitude of most Christians in the workplace: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
Found this poem by Bobby Gilles to honor our workers:
God of shop and marketplace,
Of farm and studio,
Factory and shipping lane,
Of school and busy home:
Bless the produce of our hands.
Redeem our work for Kingdom-use.
By Your grace, our efforts stand,
All offered up to You.
There in Eden, You proclaimed
That we should work the earth –
Stewards over all we named,
Delighting in their worth.
Through our fall we brought decay,
Lost access to Jehovah’s rest.
Through the cross, we rest in faith
And all our labor’s blessed.
In Your image we are made:
Creative like You are,
Forming goods for use and trade
Just like You formed the stars.
Send us out in power and skill
To worship through each task assigned.
By Your Spirit we fulfill
The holy, grand design.
Working for the Lord,