As we celebrate another Labor Day in this country, I’d like to share a few words about labor.
Some of us have a very negative attitude toward labor. We traditionally hate Mondays—because it means we have to go back to work. We sing TGIF on Fridays because it means the weekend is coming. But scripture has a more positive and healthy attitude toward work.
In the opening pages of Genesis, for example, we see something quite remarkable: God is working! And what is God doing? God is fashioning the universe. And why is God working? To share God’s love with others. And how does God work? Not angrily or begrudgingly, but joyfully and enthusiastically. After each day’s work, God looks at what he’s created and pronounces it good. After each day’s work, God rests too. And on the seventh day, God takes the whole day off!
In the gospels, Jesus works too. Tradition says he was a carpenter until about age 30 when he began his public ministry, a ministry filled with long hours of preaching, teaching, healing, traveling, and being jostled by throngs of people. But Jesus took time from his busy schedule to pray and to spend time with his apostles and with friends such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. In other words, he balanced work with leisure.
Sometimes our attitude toward work is negative because we aren’t balancing work with leisure. To achieve this balance is a real challenge in our fast-paced world, a world where downsizing often means we have more to do at work than ever before. (The fact that you have taken time to read this “spiritual reflection” is a sign that you’re balancing your busy-ness with prayer!)
Or maybe we’re negative toward our work because we’ve lost the WHY of our work. Most of us work first of all to support ourselves and our families. We must never lose sight of this WHY. My Dad was a tool and die maker. He taped the pictures of us four kids inside the lid of his tool chest at work. Why? It was a reminder to him of why he was working so hard. In the end, it all boils down to love!
And finally, to improve our attitude toward work we must connect our work to serving people. A young mother was totally frustrated and exhausted while caring for her baby. She complained to the parish priest, “I’m sick and tired of changing diapers!” He listened compassionately but then said gently, “Next time don’t change the diaper. Change the baby.” Whether we’re writing a report, sitting at a meeting, serving a customer, repairing a car, or mopping the kitchen floor, can we see our work as one small way we are serving others?
This Labor Day my wish for all of us is this: May we see work in a positive light as an expression of our love and service of others. And may we find creative ways to balance our work with rest and play!
What is your attitude toward work? How successful are you with balancing work and leisure?