Labor Day Devotional – Balancing Work and Worship
Gen. 2:1-3
We observe Labor Day, the first Monday in September, in recognition of the contributions of American workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it was labor activists like Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, who in 1882 suggested setting aside a day for a “general holiday for the laboring classes” to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”[1] That same year, a machinist named Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, New Jersey, proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. Both men attended the country’s first Labor Day parade in New York City on September 5, 1882.
 New York was the first state to introduce a bill to recognize Labor Day, but Oregon was the first to pass a law, on February 21, 1887. That same year four more states—Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York—passed laws. By 1894, 31 states had adopted the holiday. On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act and President Grover Cleveland signed it into law, making the first Monday in September of each year recognizing Labor Day as a federal holiday.
 There are a number of traditions that have grown out of the first celebrations, which included a parade. One is that speeches were made, highlighting economic and civic significance of the holiday. Another is that the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909 made a resolution that the Sunday preceding Labor Day be adopted as “Labor Sunday” and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.
 Obviously, the biblically inspired work ethic has historically raised the nation’s standard of living and contributed to the greatest production the world has ever known. Consequently, it is appropriate that we pay tribute to so many hard-working men and women and celebrate our accomplishments, under God, with a day of rest. Since today is Labor Day, so we are going to talk about balancing work and worship. Look with me at Genesis 2:1-3:

So the heavens and the earth and everything in them were completed. On the seventh day God had completed his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it he rested from all his work of creation.
 As you know, this passage of Scripture is the basis for the 4th of the 10 commandments in Exodus 20:8-11:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates. For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.
 This is God’s formula for peak performance and we’re going to see that the only way that you can be emotionally, physically, and spiritually well, is to follow God’s formula of balancing work and worship. Now there are a couple of things I want you to see as we study this passage and its application to our lives in the 4th commandment. First of all, there are two time periods we need to consider, and then there are two timeless principles that we need to heed.
 A. Sabbath Day
 But first of all, what time period are we talking about when the Bible says, “Remember the Sabbath day”? Well in the OT, the Sabbath Day was Friday sundown until Saturday sundown, which was the last day, the seventh day of the week. But as NT Christians, we do not worship on the seventh day, Sabbath day, we worship on the first day, Sunday which we call the Lord’s Day. Why is that? Well, first of all, the Sabbath day had a peculiarly Jewish character to it. In Exodus 31:12-14, God said the Sabbath was a sign between Himself and the children of Israel and that those who violate it should be put to death. So anybody that wants to live under the OT Sabbath should be prepared to suffer the consequences. That means if you traveled over a Sabbath day’s journey, which several of you did in order to get to church, according to this passage, you should be put to death. And that’s one of the multitude of Sabbath laws: If you kill a flea, you are hunting. If you swish vinegar in your mouth and you have a toothache, you are healing. If you drag a stick and it makes a furrow, you are plowing. 1,521 laws to keep!
 B. Lord’s Day 
 But we don’t keep the seventh day, we keep the first day. I often hear people pray: “Lord, we thank you for this beautiful Sabbath day.” Well technically, this is not the Sabbath day. Not the OT one anyway. The Jewish Sabbath day was yesterday, Saturday, the last day of the week. But this is Sunday, the first day of the week. Someone says: “Why don’t we worship on the day God chose? What right do we have to change the day of rest and worship?” None whatsoever. But if the Lord of the Sabbath chooses to do so, then He has every right to do it. So let me show you why we worship on Sunday and not on Saturday. And I’m going to give you a list of facts and Scripture references.
 Fact number one: Jesus rose from the grave triumphantly on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1). The risen Lord Jesus appeared five times to His disciples on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:9-10; Luke 24; John 20:19-23; 24-29). On the first day of the week, Jesus imparted the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). Jesus gave the Great Commission on the first day of the week in John 20:21. The early church met for worship on the first day of the week (Acts 20:6-7). Paul said we are to bring our tithes and offerings on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2). John on the isle of Patmos was inspired to write the book of Revelation and thus complete the canon of Scripture on the first day of the week (Rev. 1:10). John said: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” What day is the Lord’s Day? It is the day that Jesus rose again. It is Sunday, the first day of the week.
So there was a glorious transition in the pages of the NT from the OT Sabbath to the NT Lord’s Day. The Sabbath day primarily celebrated the finished work of creation, while the Lord’s Day celebrates the finished work of redemption. The Sabbath day commemorates the beginning of natural life, while the Lord’s Day commemorates the beginning of eternal life. The Sabbath day celebrated the work of God’s hands where God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, but the Lord’s Day celebrates the work of God’s heart, where He sent His Son into the world that through Him we might be saved. The Sabbath was given to Israel, and the Lord’s Day was given to the church.
 So those who insist on keeping Saturday rather than Sunday are living on the OT side of Calvary. In fact, what does the NT say to those who want to make us keep the OT Sabbath? Turn to Col. 2:14, 16-17 CSB:
He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross…Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is Christ.

The point is that the OT Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is no longer binding. The Bible says that it was merely a shadow of something to come, and thank God He has come, and His name is Jesus. So the Sabbath day for the Christian has been superseded by the Lord’s Day. So the time period is the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week. Now the second thing I want us to talk about are the two timeless principles that are found in this commandment. Now the day may have changed but these principles have not—the principles of work and worship, of rest and remembrance.
 A. Work
The book of Genesis opens with God at work. He separated the water from the land, formed the light and separated light from darkness, grew the plants, placed the sun, moon, and stars in the sky, and made the fish of the sea, birds of the air, and animals of the ground. But on the sixth day, when God created man, He turned over the stewardship of the earth to the hands of men. In fact, here in chapter 2:15, God put Adam to work in the Garden of Eden: “The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it” (Gen. 2:15). The Hebrew word translated “work” means just that: to work it, labor in it. With reference to a garden, it means to till, cultivate, and harvest it. Bottom line: God gave Adam a job. He put Adam to work. So this is before the curse of sin came into the world. Some people think of work as part of the curse, but it is not. Yes, work was made more difficult because of sin. According to Gen. 3:17-19, there’s painful labor, there’s thorns and thistles, and there’s the sweat of your brow. But that is just added difficulty. Work is a part of God’s original plan and purpose for us. After all, since man is made in the image of God, and God is at work, so we shouldn’t expect to do anything else, amen?
When you get to the Fourth Commandment, you find first of all it is a call to the work ethic and then it is a call to rest and worship. The Bible says in v. 9-10a: “Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work but on the 7th day, the Sabbath you shall do no work.” This verse has a twofold message. It says, some of you need to slow down because you are working seven days out of seven. But to the rest it says: you need to speed up and know what it’s like to work. The father who does not teach his son to work teaches him to steal.
 Joseph taught Jesus how to work with His hands and the Bible tells us that He continued to work out of His home in Capernaum as a carpenter, even after He began His ministry:
When he entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that he was at home… “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters here with us?” So they were offended by him. (Mark 2:1; 6:3)
So the pictures of Jesus that used to grace our Sunday School classrooms when I was growing up that depicted Jesus with long, flowing golden brown hair, looking like the Breck Girl from the 1960’s are mistaken at best and misleading at worst. Jesus was a real man, a man’s man. He was a carpenter, a builder by trade. He worked with wood and stone. He had splinters in his fingers, callouses on his hands, a strong back and a muscular build. But his ultimate mission was much more than construction. He came to liberate captives, to seek and save the lost. Yet even while he was about his Father’s business, he said in John 5:17: “My Father is still working, and I am working also.”
The Lord Jesus sets the example for work. And the men He called were working men, some got up before the dawn to cast nets into the chilly waters of the Sea of Galilee to catch fish to sell. Paul the apostle, even when he was on his missionary journeys, worked as a tentmaker:

For you remember our labor and hardship, brothers and sisters. Working night and day so that we would not burden any of you, we preached God’s gospel to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers. (1 Thess. 2:9-10)
The work ethic is all throughout the word of God. Would to God it was all throughout America!
1. Underworked
This biblical teaching about work is a round house punch in the face of our American welfare system. What we have today is immoral, it is enslaving, it destroys traditional families, and it is economic suicide. We have gotten away from the work ethic in America, and here is the reason: Because we have rejected God and the law of God which says: “Six days shalt thou work!”
And again, the Bible says in 1 Tim. 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own family, especially for his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” The KJV says worse than an infidel, a pagan. And again, the Bible says in 2 Thess. 3:10, “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.” And those words ought to be chiseled into the door post of the Health and Human Services Department in Washington, D.C.! It is a sin to continue to keep up an able-bodied person who refuses to work! I’m not talking about those who can’t work, I’m talking about those who can but won’t work.
We have a nation full of people who won’t work and if we do not rediscover the work ethic that is mandated in these verses in Genesis and in the fourth commandment in Exodus, we will collapse financially as a nation or be plunged into anarchy. Because it doesn’t take a financial wizard to know that when there are more people taking money who refuse to work than there are people making money by their hard work, we are in serious trouble. But that is what people are clamoring for who are advocating for socialism, “spreading the wealth around” as President Obama used to put it, paying for universal health care, paying for college tuition, paying for…fill in the blank. Where are all those billions and trillions of dollars going to come from? From those of us who are working.
Listen, you cannot multiply wealth by dividing it. And the government cannot give anything that it does not first of all take away. And what one man receives without working for it, another man must work for without receiving anything for it. And nothing will kill the work ethic, morale, and initiative for a people then for half of them to get the idea that they need not work because the other half will feed them, and for the other half to get the idea that it does no good to work, since somebody else receives the reward of their labor.
Four hundred years ago, the first English colony at Jamestown, Virginia tried a socialist system. The Virginia company back in London owned the land and all its produce, and everybody got an equal share out of the common store of food. Yet this system destroyed the incentive to work. In fact, many Jamestown settlers looked for gold or bowled in the streets rather than work in the fields because they knew they had their share of food coming regardless. Predictably, the food ran out and many starved and died. In less than a year, the colony had dwindled from 104 down to 38 souls. After another boatload from England arrived to bolster their numbers, Captain John Smith, a real man’s man, took over leadership of the failing colony in September, 1608, and declared:

“[T]hink not that either my pains, nor the [investors’] purses, will ever maintain you in idleness and sloth… [T]he greater part must be more industrious, or starve…, you must obey this now for a Law, that he that will not work shall not eat (except by sickness he be disabled) for the labors of thirty or forty honest and industrious men shall not be consumed to maintain an hundred and fifty idle loiterers…”[2]
Notice that Captain Smith decreed: “He that will not work, shall not eat.” Sound familiar? It’s from the Bible (2 Thess. 3:10). Not too surprisingly, under Smith’s firm leadership, the death toll dropped, relations with the Natives stayed mostly at an uneasy truce, the fort was repaired and expanded, crops were planted, a well dug, trees cut into clapboards, and products such as pitch, tar, and soap ash were produced for shipment back to England. Eventually, the socialist plan was ditched as plots of land were granted, contributions to the common store decreased, and every man enjoyed the fruit of his labor. As a result, production exploded, and the Virginia Colony became wildly successful. Ah, the miracle of capitalism fueled by the biblical principle of work and its just reward!
 In Plymouth, Massachusetts, the second American colony, Governor William Bradford records that plantation was floundering under the economic provisions of the contract they had made with Thomas Weston back in England, which imposed a socialist/collectivist system on the settlement. In this contract, all property was owned by the company, and all produce had to go into a common store, from which each individual would receive an equal ration, regardless of how much he had contributed. Any excess produce belonged to the investors.
 Also, the Pilgrims’ homes, which they had built, and all land, which they had cleared, were company property. Under this essentially socialist/collectivist economic system, the people received no reward for individual effort and the colony was unable to produce enough food.
Not only did socialism fail to provide for the basic needs of the people, in Governor Bradford’s estimation, it was counter to God’s plan for man. Pick up a copy of William Bradford’s book, Of Plimoth Plantation, and you’ll find that he wrote: “If it did not cut relations God established among men, it did at least diminish and take mutual respect that should be preserved among them.” He added: “Seeing all men have corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.”[3] Because of man’s fallen state, man cannot be expected to labor for no reward, which, in Bradford’s view, is why the God of the Bible rewards man for his good works.
 The Pilgrim leadership—after much discussion about whether it was right to ignore their company Charter that they had signed—voted to abolish the socialist system, and as Bradford records, they: “assigned every family a parcel of land,” observing that: “This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content.”[4] 
The elimination of the socialistic system with its communal property in favor of private ownership created prosperity. In fact, the Pilgrims eventually found themselves with more food than they could use. They set themselves up as a trading post, exchanging their surplus corn to the Indians for beaver skins, which they in turn shipped back to England to the enormous delight of the investors. When news of the colony’s success began circulating, more ships arrived with more settlers.
 At first, Bradford fretted that they would not be able to feed them all, but Plymouth’s free enterprise, capitalistic system easily absorbed all who wanted to settle there. Bradford reflected: “Instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed to rejoicing in the hearts of many, for which they blessed God.” Bradford’s decision to pursue the biblical principles of works and rewards, rather than the collectivist, socialistic mandate in their corporate charter, enabled the Pilgrims to purchase their land outright from the company, thus more than adequately fulfilling their part of the bargain.
So the American system of free enterprise ascended like a Phoenix from the smoldering ashes of the failure of the socialist system in America’s first two colonies. If you look at contemporary times for the reverse of that story, look no further than Venezuela. Once called the jewel of South America because of its prosperity, they sold out to socialism, and the people down there are starving, to the point that women are selling themselves for money to get food. And that’s what AOC and her squad and just about every Democrat candidate for president are clamoring for, and it will ruin America. It already is!
Our elected officials have created a class of people who are as dependent on government as some of our young people are hooked on opioids and meth. And the reason that these drug lords that we call politicians are doing this is simple. As long as they hand a person a government check, they can control that person’s vote! That’s the bottom line. They can talk about compassion all they want to, but power is what drives these politicians. And you mark it down, they won’t get too tough because they don’t want to lose that power they have over this significant group of voters.
But our welfare system creates and perpetuates poverty and it subsidizes fornication. And the politicians in Washington are puzzling: “Illegitimate child birth is going through the roof, 40 percent of babies are born to unwed mothers, and 72 percent of African American babies don’t have married parents, I wonder why?” Because you’re paying for it with our money! That’s why!
How does it perpetuate poverty? These children grow up and do the same thing. They don’t expect to work, because children do what their parents do. They go to the mail box, get a check, go spend it, go home, watch TV, and that’s what they do for the next 30 days until the next check comes. “Me, work? You’ve got to be kidding. Somebody owes me a living!” That’s the mentality that millions of Americans are born and raised with, and you are paying the bill. Those who have a job need to rise up, speak up, and throw out these pandering politicians and put men and women in there who believe in six days shalt thou work!
God’s solution to our Welfare State is work. Find a job for every able-bodied person. We’re constantly complaining about the crumbling infrastructure, roads, and bridges, so tell them: “You’re going to take this job or you’re off the welfare roll immediately.” That will work. Some say, that’s not compassionate. Well, the Bible says that God is love, the Bible says that the Lord is gracious and full of compassion, and our loving, gracious, compassionate God says: “Six days shalt thou work.” He knows what’s best. He knows what’s best for those who don’t work enough and He knows what’s best for those who work too much. “Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but on the Sabbath day you shall not do any work.”
 2. Overworked 
 The word Sabbath means to cease, to stop, and to rest. And that is a word that workaholics need to hear. For the Bible says: Remember the Sabbath Day. What are we to remember? Remember that the Sabbath is God’s gift to you. Jesus said in Mark 2:27: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath was given for your benefit. Now remember, the Sabbath did not begin with the 10 commandments, the Sabbath began with the creation. God worked six days, and He rested on the seventh or Sabbath day. On the first day He created light and rested. On the second day He created land and rested. On the third day He created plant life and rested. On the fourth day he created the sun, moon, and stars and He rested. On the fifth day, he created sea life and He rested. On the sixth day, he created woman and no man has rested since. But seriously, on the seventh day, having finished His creative work, God rested.
 Did God rest because He was tired? No. The Psalmist says of God that He “neither slumbers nor does He sleep” (121:4). And Isaiah says, “The Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary...” (40:28). God never gets tired from His work. Why did He rest? I’m glad you asked. He rested as a divine example to all humanity. And God’s example teaches us this: that there is a divinely engineered rhythm for your body. I want you to hear this. There is a divinely engineered rhythm for your body. The manufacturer of your body has given you a maintenance schedule that must be followed for peak performance. Your body needs to rest one day in seven, your mind needs to rest one day in seven, your soul and spirit need refreshment one day in seven for peak performance.
 So God has told us at the beginning of creation what production analysts have only recently discovered. In fact, statistics show in a Stanford University study that after about 50 hours of work, concentration levels drop, mistakes increase, and morale takes a nose dive, therefore productivity suffers.[5] Even our physical performance is affected. Doctors tell us that workaholics that mock God’s law top the charts in work-related disorders such as nervous breakdowns, high blood pressure, and premature heart attacks. No one can continually break God’s law and keep his physical, mental, and emotional health.
 After the French Revolution, when atheism was at its peak, the French tried to abolish the Lord’s Day. They basically concluded: “Its wasteful to have a rest day one out of seven, we’re going to have a rest day one out of ten, so we can achieve greater productivity.” The result? Their productivity took a nose dive. Their goals were never met. So they dropped back and punted and changed their rest day to one in seven and once again reached peak efficiency.[6] The point is this. If atheists can figure out that resting one day in seven is best for you, why can’t Christians do that?
 And what is true for us physically is also true spiritually. Supernatural strength comes from supernatural rest. In Psalm 62:11, David said: Once has God spoke and twice have I heard this, that strength belongs to God. It is a medical fact that you can sleep and not be refreshed, you can sleep and not rest. Rest and strength come from God. Not from pills, not from exotic vacations, but from God.
 Isaiah 40:29-31 says of God: “He gives strength to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Youths may become faint and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint.” You’ll have the supernatural ability to climb the highest mountain, to defeat the invincible foe, sing praises in the valley of the shadow of death, walk through the fire without being burned, and run and not grow weary. God, give us that kind of strength as we rest in You!
 B. Worship 
 How do we get that kind of strength? David said: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1 CSB). You get it when you come to God’s house and worship Him. Listen, this church is the best health spa in Morristown. This is better than the Mayo Clinic. This is better than a Caribbean cruise. Because when we come to God’s house and get our physical, emotional, and spiritual batteries recharged from the throne of grace and the living word of God, we can walk out of here and live a victorious life on Monday and the world will take note that we have been with Jesus! We will run and not grow weary when the Lord renews our strength!
 Hebrews 10:25 says: “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, and so much the more as you see the Day of Christ approaching.” The writer of Hebrews also says: “As you see the day of the Lord coming, more than ever, give special attention to worshipping God with His people on His day.” When Deut. 5:15 says we are to “keep or observe” the Sabbath day, it means more than just remember, it means to get up physically and go to God’s house. It means to praise Him and worship Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. It means that because He is our Creator and because He is our Provider and because He is our Protector and because he is our Redeemer that this day ought to be His day!
 People used to tell me, “Sunday is my only day off.” But it is not your day, it’s God’s day, all day. It belongs to Him! Miss a Sunday or two and see what that does to your walk with God, see what that does to your attitude, see what that does to your spiritual health. Some of you will never know what it is to experience victory in the Christian life because you are so inconsistent in your observance of the Lord’s Day. This is the day that we recharge our spiritual batteries so that we can take on the week ahead. Jesus says: “When 2 or 3 will gather in my name, I’ll be present in the midst of you.”
 When the army of God comes together on the Lord’s Day and His mighty presence comes down, and His Spirit fills us, and His love compels us and His power energizes us, then we can march out of this place clothed with the full armor of God and the fight is on! And the Bible says that we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us! We need to observe the Lord’s Day by stopping our work and by starting our worship! Because I want to remind you that the Lord’s Day is not our day, it is God’s day, and He deserves the glory and the honor and the majesty worthy of His majestic name!
 Let me reason with you for a minute as we close. What do we call hunting, fishing, boating, hiking, golfing, camping, swimming, and gaming? We call those things recreational activities, right? Have you ever thought about that word, recreation? It means re-creation. It means doing those things that re-energize and revitalize the whole person. That’s what makes the Lord’s Day a day of recreation. It is a day when the lost place their trust in Jesus as Savior and pledge their lives to follow Him as Lord and they become new creatures in Christ Jesus—they are recreated. It is a day when broken hearts are mended and find the peace that passes understanding. It is a day when those burdened with guilt are forgiven and set free. It is a day when marriages are restored. It is a day when broken bodies are healed. It is a day when God comes down and makes Himself known among His people. It is the Lord’s Day and there’s no other day like it! Six days we are to work, but on the first day of the week, we are to be in God’s house to worship Him and to experience Him in all of His glory!
 Jesus said: “Come unto me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you …” what? Rest. And that word rest can be correctly rendered “Sabbath.” Listen, I keep the Sabbath. I keep it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year by resting in Jesus Christ who is my Sabbath. In the OT you had to work six days before you rest. But in the NT, you rest on the first day and then you work. That’s grace. You come to Christ by faith and rest in His salvation before you work and serve Him. Your first day needs to be a day of rest, because your works cannot save you. Are you resting in Jesus? Are you resting in the finished work of Calvary? You can. Simply stop trying and start trusting. Why not trust Him right now?
[1] This is the source of the history that follows.
[2] John M. Thompson, ed., The Journals of Captain John Smith: A Jamestown Biography, (Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007), 139.
[3] Caleb H. Johnson, ed., Of Plymouth Plantation: Along with the full text of the Pilgrim’s Journals for their first year at Plymouth, (Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2006), 172.
[4] Ibid., 171.
[5] See the Stanford study here: