PENTECOST 13/LABOR DAY
September 2-4, 2017
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Colossians 3:22-4:1
“YOU GOTTA KNOW…”
1. When to work.
2. When to rest.
Colossians 3:22-4:1 (NIV 1984) “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. 1Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.”
This weekend our nation pauses to observe Labor Day. For over 100 years Labor Day has been a national holiday designed to recognize the contributions of the American worker to prosperity of our nation. When I was a boy I always wondered why on Labor Day nobody worked. Seemed odd at the time but now I get it. Workers also need rest. Our nation’s observance then is an opportunity for us believers to recognize that both work and rest come as blessings from God. Even if you are not a country music fan you probably have heard the Kenny Rogers song about cards, “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” Whether your favorite is sheepshead or euchre or bridge or poker you know that knowing when to do what is very important. And the same is true for God’s gift of work and rest. Let’s look at God’s word today asking the Holy Spirit to help know when to work and know when to rest.
Paul wrote these words to the Christian church in Colosse. “Slaves.” Oop. Stop right there. We are going to have get past this slave issue so we can hear what God says. It shocks many Americans to find out that in the Bible God never prohibited slavery. What He does do is regulate it with the law of love. That’s what’s going on here. Since we live in a country that thankfully does not have slavery it’s best if we think about this word of God as it applies to workers and bosses, employees and employers. I’ll read it that way.
“Workers, obey your earthly bosses in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. Bossess, provide your workers with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a BOSS in heaven.”
The first thing for us to take from this, brothers and sisters, is that work is a blessing from God. Do you remember at the Creation of the world when everything was perfect how God gave Adam and Eve work to do in tending the Garden of Eden? That’s because it was a blessing! Having something useful to do the benefits others is a blessing. You know in Confirmation Class I tell the kids that if we lived in the Garden of Eden one of the most fun things to do would be homework. Can you imagine the conversations? “Why don’t you take a break from the studying and play a video game? Aww, Mom. I’m doing math facts. Can I play later. Please!” You think that’s funny but it’s true. Work, doing something useful that benefits others, scrubbing toilets, doing laundry, keeping citizens safe and healthy, keeping numbers and bank accounts straight, fixing broken cars, painting houses, homework, teaching all of it is a blessing. To be useful in God’s creation honors Him. That’s why you get satisfaction in a job well done. It’s your conscience saying, “Good job. God is pleased!” It’s also a blessing because God hides behind our jobs to provide for our needs and to let some of us retire so we can do work without getting paid.
But work doesn’t always feel like a blessing, does it? You know why. Sin ruined it. One of the consequences of sin is that blessing of work has thorns and weeds even when you aren’t in the garden. Lousy bosses. Workplace politics. Not enough pay. Injuries. Failure. Frustration. All traced back to sin. Worse. We tend to look at the gift of work as a curse, not a blessing. That’s what Paul was addressing to the Colossians. Work is a blessing. But to be a blessing work has to be tied back to the one who came up with work, God. God wanted the Garden of Eden tended. God wants clean houses. God wants garbage collected. God wants the sick cared for. God wants godly citizens protected. God wants honest banking and accounting. God wants his gift of electricity used safely. It goes on and on. So Christian you gotta know when to work and who your boss is. You clean the house for the Lord, not the kids. You do your best at your job not to get a promotion or to keep from getting fired but to honor God who gave you that job as a way of providing for you. Your earthly boss may be a jerk but the Lord isn’t. He’s your real boss and He deserves your best. And if you happen to be a boss remember as you carry that work out that the Boss is watching how you treat others and will show no favoritism. You gotta know when to work. When you are at a task or a job whether for pay or volunteer we do our best for the Lord.
But all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. That 17th century proverb almost has it right. What God actually blessed us with is rest. In the perfect world before sin God gave a day of rest. How much more important to get rest in a world messed up by sin. God designed our bodies to be blessed by rest. Sleep, good sleep is the way God reboots our brains. He uses rest to rebuild parts of our bodies that get damaged or strained at work. You gotta know when to work and you gotta know when to rest. Here is where Americans fall down. We are known as the most sleep deprived nation on earth. Many don’t take vacations and when they do they take their work with them on vacation. Parents can let their own and their kids schedules get so packed with the extras there is little or no time for rest. But God wants us blessed with rest. The concept of a Labor day where workers don’t labor but rest is actually a good one. In the Bible God commanded His Old Testament people to give rest to their workers, to their animals, even to their field and grapevines. All were to be given a chance to rest regularly. Are you getting your rest? Is there something you can cut out of your schedule? You gotta know when to rest.
Now the word of God we’ve been looking at has really just dealt with physical work and physical rest. But it tied our attitudes towards work and rest to our relationship with the Lord. And it is in our relationship with the Lord that we also need to know when to work and when to rest. When Jesus gave the invitation to the weary and burdened to come for rest He was not talking about an afternoon nap or one day a week to sleep in. He was talking about spiritual rest, rest for the souls of people who had been taught they had to do works of righteousness to be loved by God. The religious leaders and teachers of the law made it clear to the people in Jesus’ day that they needed to do more and be better. Those that cared worked very hard at living righteous lives. And failed. Just like we fail. Perfection is not attainable. When it comes to your status with God, your place as a member in His family, you gotta know when to work. Not at all. There is nothing you have to do or can do to be right with God. You gotta know when to rest and where to rest. In the loving arms of Jesus. He worked for you. He lived perfectly. He signed your name on the time card. You get the credit. You gotta know where to rest your sins. On the cross. There Jesus paid for them in full. None of this making sure I get to church before the job interview or when mom is sick. Rest. You can’t make God love you anymore than He already does. He is your loving Father. Trust his decisions for you and your loved ones. Then the works that you do will flow from love because you know the real work is done.
You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em, Kenny crooned. And every card player who hears that knows they will still make bad plays, they won’t always get it right. You gotta know when to work and when to rest in your relationship with God and every Christian knows, we’ll mess that up to. Thankfully it does not matter. Because of Jesus we we’ve already won. Amen.