You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy and it shall be well with you. Psalm 128:2
Today’s Scripture verse comes from Psalm 128, the Psalm that is part of the Orthodox wedding service. The Psalm describes what the happy home looks like. At the center, of course, is Christ. He is the centerpiece of the fulfilled life so obviously He is the center of the happy home. Family is important—a solid marriage, good children, respect for parents, meaningful friendships.
And work is an essential part of the happy home. When I offer pre-marital counseling, one of the things I talk over with couples is whether they have planned a budget. One couple many years ago told me that they hadn’t. In fact, their answer was “we aren’t worried. Our love will get us through.” To which I responded “’Our love’ can do a lot of things but money is what pays bills. Without money, it is going to be hard to have a happy home.” Now, you don’t need a lot of money to have a happy home. You need enough to live on. And since money comes through labor, then labor a necessary part of every successful family.
Today we celebrate “Labor Day” by refraining from labor. For most, today is a day off to spend with family. For those in cold weather climates, today is one of the last days for an outside cookout or a trip to the beach. In addition to “celebrating” a day off from work and school, we should celebrate “the fruit of the labor of our hands.” We should celebrate our work successes. If, at Thanksgiving, we go around the table and say what we are thankful for, perhaps on Labor Day, we should go around the table and talk about the positive things that we gain from labor. Everyone should talk about the rewards of work. Children should thank their parents for their labors, which allow them to have homes, nice clothes, play sports and have electronic gadgets. Family members should acknowledge and be thankful for sacrifices that mom and dad make as part of their jobs.
Those of us who are part of the labor force should also acknowledge God, who gave us gifts and talents which we have used to attain and sustain jobs, which bring in financial gains which allow us to buy homes, take vacations, and have good lives. Hard work doesn’t always bring a windfall when it comes to finances. And making good money at one’s job doesn’t always necessarily bring fulfillment. However, honest work brings personal fulfillment, as well as blessing from God, who crowns not our financial success, but who crowns the effort we make in our labors. Also, we shouldn’t only labor for the paycheck, but we should seek to honor those around us through our work—our co-workers, our bosses, our clients, society in general.
Imagine for a moment that your boss is your parent, you co-worker is your sibling and that your client is your child. If we had the respect for the boss that we have for our parents, if we the co-workers could make relationships that had the joy, confidence and commitment that we have with our siblings, and if we showed the same care for our clients as we do for our own children, imagine the kind of world we could have.
Finally, the number one goal in life is to glorify God. This also happens to be the goal of every relationship—whether your neighbor makes more or less money than you, our goal in life should be to give glory to God through serving our neighbors. The number one goal in every job should be to glorify God, who gave us the talent, which brought us the job, and who also gave us the commandment to let our light shine so that others can come to God through our work. This is what God refers to when He says we will be happy and it shall be well with us. If you are using your talents to do a good job at work, others will be happy with us. And if we are using our talents to glorify God, this will stand us in good stead for it to go well with God when we meet Him.
As we celebrate Labor Day, enjoy the fruit of the labor of your hands, strive to give a good effort in your job, and as God tells us in the Psalms, we will be happy and it will be well with us.
Lord, thank You for the gift of this holiday. Thank You for the gifts and talents that I have (list them) that have allowed me to have a job which provides sustenance for my family. Help me to always improve in my work, to be ever kinder to my co-workers and those for whom I am working. Help me to not only find fulfillment in what I do, but to bring You glory through my efforts and labor. Amen.
Happy Labor Day!
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.