Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Our True Labor

(Monarch, in our front yard)

Labor Day is this coming Monday. A day 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 ourselves working for God, and his greater purposes. 

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, 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 represents the human condition. Sisyphus struggles perpetually, without hope of completion. Such laboring is absurd. Camus thinks if Sisyphus can accept his absurd labor, then he can find happiness in it.

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

But, from the Jesus-perspective, all labor "in the Lord" is redemptive and 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 perspective, redemptive activity is seen and experienced everywhere. What seem to be vain, meaningless tasks, take on eternal, missional qualities. This happens, not because of any intrinsic majesty of the task, 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.