Work [wurk] – exertion directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil
Labor [ley-ber] -productive activity, by a person or a body of persons.
Today we celebrate Labor Day. A day set aside to honor us, those regular folks who work just about every day. And on Labor Day we don’t work, we rest. Of course, many of those associated with the military actually work on Labor Day. But, don’t worry, we still celebrate you.
Work looks different for many of us. I was a SAHM (stay-at-home mom), so my work looked mostly like housework and schooling short people. When my Dufflings were little they loved to work. By work I mean building cities with LEGOs. Lots and lots of LEGOs. If you are a mom, you just squinted because you can still feel that LEGO you stepped on, last night. LEGOs are the new weapons. You want to cripple an intruder, lay a path of LEGOs. Trust me on this, it will work, every. single. time.
In the Bible, work was absolutely spelled out and it looked seriously like hands-on tasks. Basically, the men and women of the Bible would build. Did you notice that? God began the creation with work and set aside a day of Sabbath rest from that work. Noah built the ark and it took more than 45 minutes including commercial breaks. Solomon built the temple and that took years as well.
But my favorite builder is Nehemiah. Now he had spunk!
I love him so much. Think about it, he was a servant of the King. “Now I was cupbearer to the king” Nehemiah 1:11b (ESV). Not exactly the most prestigious job, considering if the cup was poisoned he would take one for the team and die. Not the job I would be looking for. But, that did not stop Nehemiah because he had a destiny to fulfill; he was created to build, and not with LEGOs.
He was called to lead the people of God to rebuild the gates and the walls of Jerusalem. “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem” Nehemiah 2:17a (ESV). It must have been some kind of sermon because the people of God responded, “Let us rise up and build. So, they strengthened their hands for the good work” Nehemiah 2:18b (ESV).
Keep reading this book and it just gets better and better. Who doesn’t love a good showdown, right?
Looking a bit deeper into this story of “work” we see that there were clearly some work-related hazards. Such as people trying to stop the work of God through murder and sabotage. “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work” Nehemiah 4:11 (ESV).
Nehemiah had a response for this plan of attack. He spoke to the people building the wall, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome” Nehemiah 4:14 (ESV). And the work continued. But it looked a bit different, “Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other” Nehemiah 4:17b (ESV).
And this is my favorite part of this encouraging story. Because it matches so well with the way we should expect to live our Christian life. “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us” Nehemiah 4:19b-20 (ESV). Isn’t that just wonderful!
We need only sound our trumpets and the body of Christ, who is building God’s Kingdom here on earth along with us, will come and fight alongside us. What a beautiful picture of the body of Christ working together and defending the work of Christ.
Back to the LEGOs. The hardest part, aside from not crippling yourself as you walked through the house, was the putting away of the LEGOs. It was usually a very traumatic event with lots of tears and pouty faces. I can’t blame them. Some of their buildings were true masterpieces. But, we lived in quarters and space was tight and I didn’t want to eat my supper standing and holding my plate, so we had to clear the table. And sometimes we had guests who needed space to walk from one part of the room to the other. So, there is that.
However, in God’s economy we can build until He returns. There is nothing stopping us. Our labor becomes sweet because we are not working for ourselves; we are workers bonded together to bring about the continued work of Christ.
Labor Day looks and feels a bit different for me. I am reminded that this kind of kingdom labor is not just important work, it is essential work. Bringing the gospel to whose who do not believe, building God’s kingdom, and discipling believers is indeed hard work, but very necessary. So, as we take our rest today let us not forget to pick up our tools and our swords tomorrow and continue building as God leads!
Happy Labor Day,