In a time when workers’ rights are taken for granted and even workers’ benefits have come to be expected, it’s no wonder that the origins of Labour Day are confined to the history books. What evolved into just another summer holiday began as a working class struggle and massive demonstration of solidarity in the streets of Toronto.
Canada was changing rapidly during the second half of the 19th century. Immigration was increasing, cities were getting crowded, and industrialization was drastically altering the country’s economy and workforce.
As machines began to replace or automate many work processes, employees found they no longer had special skills to offer employers. Workers could easily be replaced if they complained or dissented and so were often unable to speak out against low wages, long work weeks and deplorable working conditions.
This is the context and setting for what is generally considered Canada’s first Labour Day event in 1872. No matter where you find yourself this Labour Day, take a minute to think about Canada’s labour pioneers. Their actions laid the foundations for future labour movements and helped workers secure the rights and benefits enjoyed today.
Six Reasons Why We Work
For Christians, celebrating Labour Day has multiple meanings. We honour the workers of Canada, but the holiday is also a chance to remember the importance of work.
Why do we work? As you celebrate with your friends and family, take time to reflect on these six reasons:
- Work fulfills three purposes.
Our work should glorify God, serve the common good, and further the reign of God. Our work is what God uses to change the world for his glory.
- Work gives us insight into the nature of God.
The opening lines of Scripture say, “In the beginning, God created.” God is a worker. From the very beginning of the Bible, we are faced with the inescapable fact that work is a part of God’s character and nature.
- We were made to work – it is ordained by God.
In Genesis 2:15 we read, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” God gave us the task of tending over and taking care of creation. This cultural mandate, given in Genesis 1:28, is our original job description. Like God, we have the ability to work, make plans and implement them, and be creative. These gifts help point us to our purpose – humanity was created by God to cultivate and keep God’s creation, which includes developing and protecting it.
- Work is honorable – it is a gift, not a curse.
All professions and all kinds of work, assuming that they are legal and ethical, are honorable before God. There is no dichotomy between sacred and secular work. All work brings glory to God and a potential source of fulfillment, if it is done to God’s glory.God did not create work to be drudgery. He gave humanity work before the Fall, as a means of fulfillment. Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 reminds us that a human being can…do nothing better than…find satisfaction in one’s work. This too…is from the hand of God, for without God, who can eat or find enjoyment?
- Work provides an opportunity for witness.
You manifest a powerful message, both verbally and non-verbally, of a supernatural approach to work. The world needs this powerful witness to the reality of Christ and the difference he makes in his followers.
- Work gives us a lifetime mission.
Genesis 3:19 reminds us that “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.” God intends that humans are to work as long as they live, whether paid or volunteer. Retirement shouldn’t mean the end of meaningful, purposeful work. Our vocations are for a lifetime.
- Hugh Whelchel