God created Labor Day
August 25, 2014
by Pastor Tim Wheatley, Cokato Evangelical Lutheran Church

Labor Day weekend is right around the corner. For many of the kids, this thought is accompanied by a groan; it is, after all, the last weekend of summer vacation, and Tuesday, Sept. 2, school will officially begin again.

Many of us adults, though, breathe a sigh of relief because this holiday, first set aside in 1882 in New York, and then in 1886 for all of the United States, is a recognition of laborers throughout her territories. This holiday, as Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, said, reminds us of those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

The idea was to set aside a day to let laborers rest and recognize all that has been done. But, there is a bit of a mystery behind this holiday; who first suggested it?

Traditionally, we have given credit to Peter J. McGuire.However, there were always a few who believed that it was actually Matthew Maguire, a machinist and secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, NJ, who created the holiday while he was serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. Recent research suggests this is more likely the correct history.

I will leave the debate of who started the 1882 Labor Day celebration up to the historians, while putting forth that it was God who created the idea behind Labor Day. After all, in the 10 commandments, God commands, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord, your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11.

God did not suggest we rest from our labors once a year, however, to take time to understand why we work and celebrate the Lord who gave us the ability to do so — God commanded we do it every week. God knows that, without limits, we will make ourselves too busy, and work ourselves until we have nothing left.

I hear, weekly, how busy people are, and how they just need more time. The shocking part is God knows we are like that, which is why he made the Sabbath – not to limit us and put us on “time out,” but rather, so we keep perspective, praise God, and take a rest from our labors.

May you have a wonderful Labor Day weekend, and then, remember to rest from your labors each week so that you may grow in relationship to others and to your God.

The information on Labor Day was taken from the US Department of Labor’s website:www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm. Scripture references are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

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