Sunday, September 03, 2023

Our True Labor

Image result for john piippo labor

It's Labor Day weekend in America. Time to rest and recreate from work. 

For followers of Jesus, our true work is all that is done "in the Lord." This brings satisfaction, as we view themselves working for God, and his greater purposes. 

This was my experience as a new follower of Jesus. I was working my way through college. I had a job as a custodian, at the large factory my father worked at. I was convinced I was to work hard at all that God called me to do. Colossians 3:23 was living and breathing in my soul.

Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, 
just as though you were working for the Lord 
and not merely for your masters.

And I did. I worked hard, with joy, to please my heavenly Father, and my earthly father as well. What kind of witness would I have if my labor was half-hearted?

God's greater purposes have to do with the redemption of his creation, to include persons. Our job may involve making things, selling things, cleaning, teaching, whatever. But our real job involves the bigger, redemptive picture of what God is doing. This is our true labor. 

We see this in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. 

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord

"Labor" is "vain" if it has no meaningful purpose. "Vain  labor" is boring. "Boredom" is not having nothing to do, but finding no meaning in what one is doing.

A philosophical example of vain labor is Albert Camus's "Myth of Sisyphus." Sisyphus, according to the Greek myth, was punished for all eternity, and condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll back down to the bottom when he reaches the top. This happens over and over again and again, everlastingly. 

Camus claimed Sisyphus is representative of the human condition. Sisyphus struggles perpetually, and without hope of success. His labor is absurd. Camus thinks if Sisyphus can accept his absurd labor, then he can find happiness in it.

Many people view their labor as absurd. They find no joy in it. Their work lack telos (purpose), and is in vain. 

But, from the Jesus-perspective, all labor "in the Lord" is not vain, but meaningful. When what we do emerges out of who we are in relationship with Christ, our lives become purposeful. Purposeful, *telic living brings satisfaction.

We are to view God as our Employer. From this God-relational POV, redemptive activity can be seen and experienced everywhere. What seem to be vain, meaningless tasks, from a human POV, take on eternal, missional qualities. This happens, not because of any intrinsic majesty of the task at hand, but as a function of who we are under.

Labor under the Lordship of Jesus, and abound in the work you are doing under God.

Know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

*telic - a purposeful or defined action; from the Greek word telos, meaning "end," or "goal"; such as teloscope, literally "to see to the end."


In my book I talk about prayer as purposeful activity - Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.