ACTIVE FAITH PODCAST: Happy In Labor – Monday Meditation

by Andrew Ware

Meditation focusing on scripture and self-care.

This week I reflect on the later part of Ecclesiastes 3. As we observe Labor Day, we look at what it takes to be “happy in labor,” that is enjoy our vocations. This work cannot happen though without self-care and without opportunities for this to happen in the midst of our vocation. This is the very activism that has led to Labor Day.

18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” 22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?

Ecclesiastes 3:18-22

Happy Labor Day, a day oddly enough we are called to rest from our “labor” (our vocation) as a reminder and appreciation for the Labor we do offer.

The Department of Labor introduces Labor Day on its website saying,

“Observed the first Monday in September, Labor Day is an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers. The holiday is rooted in the late nineteenth century, when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being.”

United States Department of Labor. Found at:

However, this idea almost seems in contrast with the go, go, go nature of American society. As we look out and see unions striking for better conditions, better pay, more equitable treatment, and oftentimes basic human rights in the workplace.

It continues to baffle me, that a country that celebrates the accomplishments of the contribution of workers to America would at the same time demonize those same workers for asking for basic living needs. Unions are constantly being busted or demonized for asking for these equitable situations.

Yet, here we are, the voices of many calling for greater treatment of the American Worker. Today stands less as a day to be reminded of the activism that got us here, and the calling to continue that work.

Vocation and work in general are meant to be enjoyed, and yet many times even vocations we love become unenjoyable because of conditions. Teachers who love teaching, but dislike that they can’t live off of their salary, that they have to spend personal money to make sure students have supplies, and that they have to take personal time to put together lesson plans. Nurses whose roles are used and abused by a medical system that devalues the true nature of work they put in, and yet have an innate desire to care for and help those who are weak.

The list could go on, and yet, we wrestle, not with labor but with care. Fair labor includes opportunities for self-care.

We are reminded of our connection to the dust of creation in this passage and are called to remember this as we go about our labors. We work with joy because we are grounded in the nature of God that floods within each of us. Yet, when our humanity is devalued it is hard to live into that nature.

The mentality of “shut up and work” neglects that we are all human and deserve to be treated as such. Therefore, we advocate to have safe and necessary working conditions. We advocate to be able to provide for ourselves. That way we can take pride in our work. So that our work doesn’t become a barrier to a fulfilling life in the Spirit.

I want to be happy when I go to work because I know that I am cared for by those whom I work for and with. I want to be happy knowing that my family is cared for. In these ways, the fight of Labor Day is a fight for an equitable and just society that views human nature as something to be nurtured, not taken advantage of.

Never be afraid to advocate for your needs or the needs of your community, so that you can find joy in your work.


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