DEVOTION – THE BLESSINGS OF LABOR
“Here is what I have seen:
It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good
of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God.”
Labor Day—what does it mean to you?
The last big weekend of summer and the beginning of the school year are perhaps the two most common answers. But it also has to do with recognizing those who labor, and what they contribute to our society. Many feel that working men and women are the fabric of our society. They make, build, sell, or service many of those things that we take for granted as part of our daily lives. At the same time, they are working to support their families so that their dependents have a roof over their heads, food on the table, and clothes on their bodies. Perhaps it’s a good thing to have a special day on which those who labor are recognized for the blessings they bring to others around them.
In our text, Solomon observed something a bit deeper than that. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes life from two perspectives, one of them as the world sees it—how things are “under the sun.” That is the point of view seen in the paragraph above. Solomon also observed God’s hand in the way life works. This Spirit-inspired wisdom of Solomon reminds us that we have another and even greater cause for expressing appreciation on Labor Day. It is found in the loving kindness of our God. Yes, we have to work for a living, and the unpleasant aspects of work—from thistles to sore muscles, from headaches to blistered hands—can all be traced back to the fall into sin. However, the Lord has not dealt with us according to our sin, but according to His merciful kindness. And so the Lord also has blessed the labors of our hands (Psalm 90:17). The God Who has delivered us from the curse of sin has also granted us this grace that “It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage.” (verse 18) Yes, while we labor in this world “under the sun,” the Lord has given us a sense of purpose and accomplishment in using the gifts and strength with which He has blessed us. In His providential grace we are allowed to enjoy the fruits of our labors. As we prosper and receive bountifully from our labors, it is good for us to remember what Solomon observed, “As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God.” (verse 19)
So this Labor Day, while we take a day off from work to enjoy a little leisure with friends and family in honor of those who labor among us, let us also remember the Lord and what a blessing it is to have a job, whether it be in the home, the church, or the secular community. The Lord has given us the opportunity to work for our own benefit as well as for the good of others. “This is the gift of God.” (v.19)
Theodore Barthels is pastor of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Austin, Minnesota.