Labor Day

american-flag-2aLabor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers.Today I would like to celebrate the contributions of all workers who are busily engaged in building the kingdom of God.

First we need to ask, “Who is a kingdom builder?”Is the designation reserved only for those who are in full-time vocational ministry, like pastors and missionaries?If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know how I’ll answer to that question . . . with a resounding “NO!”

Here are some profound words from Os Guinness on this subject,taken from his book, The Call:

There is a great distortion which argues that Christ gave two ways of life to his church.One is the perfect life, the other is permitted.The perfect life is spiritual, dedicated to contemplation and reserved for priests, monks, and nuns; the permitted life is secular, dedicated to action and open to such tasks as soldering, governing, farming, trading, and raising families.Higher vs. lower, sacred vs. secular, perfect vs. permitted, contemplation vs. action.

Sadly, this two-tier or double-life view of calling flagrantly perverted biblical teaching by narrowing the sphere of calling and excluding most Christians from its scope.If all that a believer does grows out of faith and is done for the glory of God, then all dualistic distinctions are demolished.There is no higher/lower, sacred/secular, perfect/permitted, contemplative/active, or first class/second class.

Calling is the premise of Christian existence itself.Calling means that everyone, everywhere, and in everything fulfills his or her (secondary) callings in response to God’s (primary) calling.For the Reformers, the peasant and the merchant—for us, the business person, the teacher, the factory worker, and the television anchor—can do God’s work (or fail to do it) just as much as the minister and the missionary.

The recovery of the holistic understanding of calling was dramatic.William Tyndale wrote that if our desire is to please God, pouring water, washing dishes, cobbling shoes, and preaching the Word is all one.William Perkins claimed “polishing shoes was as sanctified and holy act and the action of a shepherd in keeping sheep, performed as I have said in his kind, is as good a work before God as in the action of a judge in giving sentence, or of a magistrate in ruling, or a minister in preaching.”

The cultural implications of recovering true calling were explosive.Calling gave to everyday work a dignity and spiritual significance under God that dethroned the primacy of leisure and contemplation.Calling gave to humble people and ordinary tasks an investment of equality that shattered hierarchies and was a vital impulse toward democracy.Calling gave to such practical things as work, thrift,and long-term planning a reinforcement that made them powerfully influential in the rise of modern capitalism.Calling gave to the endeavor to make Christ Lord of every part of life a fresh force that transformed churches and cultures.Calling gave to the idea of “talents” a new meaning, so that they were no longer seen purely as spiritual gifts and graces but as natural and a matter of giftedness in the modern sense of the term.Calling demanded and inspired the transforming vision of the lordship of Christ expressed in the famous saying of the great Dutch prime minister, Abraham Kuyper: “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine! This belongs to me!’”

WOW!Now that should help us all see the vision and value of calling from God’s perspective.From our first parents in the Garden of Eden, all of life was to be lived coram deo—before the face of God.It didn’t matter if one was a butcher, baker, or candle-stick maker . . . or a priest, monk, or nun, every service is sacred when it is lived out in the light of eternity for the glory of God.

So who are the “kingdom builders” for the King of kings and the Lord of lords?Everyone who is putting their gifts, talents, and abilities into faithful service in order to glorify God and expand the cause of His kingdom.

This Labor Day, take a moment to do a personal evaluation in the area of your calling and see if you have been imagining any sacred/spiritual split?How is your work impacting the kingdom of God?How are you allowing God to use you right where you currently are to expand the cause of His kingdom?

Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31}

As I often tell my congregation, there is only one menial job in this world: that is the job where Jesus cannot be found.If your labor is a labor of love for the glory of God, the good of others, and the expansion of God’s kingdom, you can rest assured that what you are doing, regardless of what others might think of it, echoes in eternity.

Thousands gathered in Washington recently to observe the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. There’s another quote from Dr. King that has been circulating recently that is just perfect for closing out today’s meditation:

If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music … Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

You are to be celebrated today for living for something that will outlast your life on this side of the grave.Laboring for the Lord means you are living for the transcendent glories of God, regardless of what you do for a living.Let that truth bless you this Labor Day.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN

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