Monday, September 1, 2014

The Gospel of Labor

This is the gospel of labor.
Ring forth ye bells of the kirk!
For the Lord of Love
Came down from above
To live with men who work.
And this is the blessing he planted,
Here in this thorn-curs'd soil:
Heaven is blessed with eternal rest,
But the blessing of Earth is toil.
    -- Anonymous

Today, we celebrate Labor Day in the United States. Originally intended as a salute to organized labor, it has become today a day of leisure in celebration of the unofficial end of summer. On the morrow, people will pick up their lunch bags, brief cases, book bags, tool boxes, and handbags and head off to work. On this first work day of the week, most will look wistfully back at the long weekend just competed and almost as many will already be looking forward to the weekend to come.

Leisure has become the goal and work a curse to be dealt with. And yet, in the book of Genesis we read that after creating man, God planted a garden eastward in Eden and that he took the man He had created and and put him into the garden to dress it and to keep it. In other words, the first man was given the dignity of a job with responsibilities "to dress the garden and to keep it."

Work gives dignity to the person, and the person gives dignity to the work. And no work is inherently better than other.  As my grandfather said to me "Remember, boy, whether you're directing a corporation or digging ditches, it's all food on the table."

In an October 1967 address to students at Barrett Junior High School in Philadelphia, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. said the following:
"What I'm saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures! 

Sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music. 

Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. 

Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, "Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well!"  

If you can't be a pine on the top of a hill, be a scrub in the valley, but be the best little scrub on the side of the rill.  
Be a bush if you can't be a tree.  
If you can't be a highway, just be a trail.  
If you can't be a sun, be a star.  

It isn't by size that you win or you fail; be the best at whatever that you are!"

Work brings dignity to the worker. The worker gives dignity to the work. This is the gospel of labor.

What is your work?

What are you doing to "be the best at whatever you are?"