The labor of faith

I don’t want to assume you’re relaxing today.

Labor Day celebrates the American worker. But while a lot of us enjoy a three-day weekend, many American workers do not. The nature of their jobs don’t allow for it or it’s their turn to be on the holiday schedule. Fishing trips and family barbecues fill this day for a lot of people now. Let’s thank God for that. At the same time, we can also recall the struggles behind what this holiday represents.

Early laborers in our country endured harsh working environments. We forget that children were a part of the labor force as well. Can you imagine a four-year-old working in a factory or coal mine? Long days and dangerous conditions were normal for many people.

But it wasn’t because people merely accepted those conditions. Many opposed the all too common mistreatment and exploitation workers faced. And many found their strongest arguments against these conditions in their Christian faith.

Suggesting that religion should stay out of politics is a weak idea. For one, we don’t live a compartmentalized life. Our faith in the risen Christ impacts everything about who we are and how we live. Second, asking your preacher to not speak on political issues dismisses how our faith has already spoken to so many of these issues before.

The labor movement has religious roots. Important religious roots. Christians who recognized the abuse and corruption against workers understood their faith demanded they speak up. Preachers used their pulpits to affirm the dignity and worthiness of American workers. Churches assisted various labor movement forces.

Now, all these years later, their hard, dangerous work has paid off.

Now, let’s shift our focus a bit. The book of Hebrews wants to encourage a struggling faith community. One of the ways the writer seeks to encourage them is by calling to mind many who lived out their faith before them. Some are named. Great names of faith like Moses, Gideon and David. Most are left nameless. Their testimony is no less meaningful or inspirational.

Think about what the Hebrews writer says about these unnamed Christians. Many were tortured, while others suffered mocking, flogging and imprisonment. Others still were stoned to death, sawn in two or killed by the sword.

It’s important to not take for granted our work today. Many people fought for you and me to have the chance to work and receive respectable wages. We can’t even fathom sending our children to work away from home anymore. In the same light, people of faith persevered, in part, to show us the faithfulness of God and endurance of our faith.

May all their testimony and work encourage us all the more, to the glory of God.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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