The upcoming Sunday has sometimes been known as Labor Sunday as a part of Labor Day weekend. The United States has celebrated Labor Day as a federal holiday since 1894. It originated as a time when blue collar workers organized for shorter work days and safer working conditions in a time when factory work utilized a greater portion of the work force in this country.
The recognition of the rights of workers pre-dates the urbanization of the USA. In fact, it is contained in the Ten Commandments given to Moses in the book of Exodus.
Exodus 20:8-11 (NRSV) specifically reads:
Remember the sabbath day, and 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; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Of course, not working each day was a novelty in its time. If people didn’t work, they didn’t eat. As we recognized the need for rest from work, we look to a better motivation than “we’re tired!” This particular commandment spiritualizes rest by tying it to God’s example.
Interestingly enough, this commandment applies to children, pre-dating child labor laws.
It applies to their slaves, pre-dating the abolition movement.
It applies to their working animals, pre-dating the Humane Society.
It applies to the foreigners among them which meant that they couldn’t go to eat out at a restaurant on the sabbath that was run by someone of another culture.
In other words, this was a sweeping edict which recognized the need for rest of all living things. The impressive thing is that we see an equality in God’s eyes that humans didn’t yet apply to their everyday living. The Bill of Rights extends from this philosophy of application to all people.
As we celebrate Labor Day this coming Monday, let us recognize its origins actually pre-date the founding of our country. God bids us to rest. We don’t often think of this as a spiritual need but merely physical. What does the cycle of rest have to do with our spirits?
Is it possible that we are more likely to implement the fruits of the spirit such as patience, kindness, gentleness or self-control if we are well-rested?
As we worship on Sunday, let us consider God’s commandment of sabbath and how we can more deeply apply it to our lives!
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Photo by Alex O’Neal via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.