Labor Day & Sabbath

As I listened to the news and considered the benefits of Labor Day in the United States, I found myself comparing it to Sabbath—a day of rest.


One of the biggest concerns I had for this holiday is that it really is not a national holiday in which the stores close and there is a sense of community as everyone steps away from their daily jobs for a day of rest.


The problem is that there are so many who are still working on Labor Day.  The stores, in many cases, remain open, restaurants of all kinds are still serving money.  How does a country honor workers and then still expect them to work?


The twist that this discussion developed in my head then shifted to just what is Labor Day.  If Labor Day is supposed to be a day of rest for the working force, then everything should stop and everybody rest.


That, of course, is not realistic, esp. in terms of the nation’s secular emphasis at this very time. Right now the demand on all workers is to bow down to the bosses and/or the CEOs and keep working the hours deemed necessary to be a financially successful.


These thoughts then started spinning around in my head as I hear Jesus telling me to take a Sabbath:


28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  –Matthew 11:28


Labor Day is not Sabbath, but I wonder how many workers feel a need for a Sabbath even though life demands keep them not only from the rest they physically need, but also from the need to remain in a faithful relationship with God.


Today’s society fails to understand that one day honoring the workers is not a successful way to provide honest rest.


To fully refresh and to fuel one’s life to live out the Christian lifestyle, maintaining Sabbath is a practice that needs encouraging, developing, even promoting.


The prophet Isaiah explained how to honor or to keep a Sabbath:


13 “Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Don’t pursue your own interests on that day,
but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day.
Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.
14 Then the Lord will be your delight.
I will give you great honor
and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”  –Isaiah 58:13-14


Compare that to the instructions Paul had for the Hebrews:


God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. 3 For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said,

“In my anger I took an oath:
‘They will never enter my place of rest,’”

even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.” 5 But in the other passage God said, “They will never enter my place of rest.”

So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“Today when you hear his voice,
don’t harden your hearts.”

Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.

12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.  –Hebrews 4:1-13


Keeping Sabbath is a discipline that goes much further than honoring workers one day each calendar year. Labor Day is an American invention that does honor all those who work hard to keep our culture running–from farming to manufacturing to transportation and even to all the service industries that are essential to this country’s success.


Yet, keeping a Sabbath on a regular basis is a key factor to how well one manages the daily demands, the weekly workweek, the monthly budgets, and the annual reports.


By practicing a regular Sabbath, God assures us that we will receive the rest we need.  And in Jesus’ words, the rest that we receive will go beyond the earthly work experience.

Keeping a Sabbath day each week is a win-win situation.  It wins on so many different levels in our earthly lives, but it exceed even that with the promise of heavenly rest.


Labor Day needs to remind each one of us the need for weekly Sabbath.  This is one day that all individuals need to stop and evaluate the quality of one’s Sabbath.  All the bosses, the business owners and leaders need to evaluate just how honestly do they value the workers.  Are these industry, business leaders doing all they can to assure workers are provided time for Sabbath.  Rested workers are better equipped to do their best in the work force, too.


Dear Father,

All too easily we rush around in our lives,

     Wearing ourselves way too thin.

As we continue the work week and leave

     Labor Day behind,

Guide us into the practices that grow us

     In Christian fellowship. 

May we find the rest for our daily lives

     As we work to receive heavenly rest with you.

In the name of you, the Father,

      In your son Jesus Christ,

          And in the Holy Spirit, amen.


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