Colossians 3: 23 “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”
The information we find in the Bible is so varied, we find it difficult to prioritize our favorite types. One concerns the profession of Jesus. He first and foremost was our Savior but He was, in His human, earthly work, a carpenter. To know Jesus was a tradesman gives many of us great pleasure and a feeling of worth.
The labor movement in America has a very colorful and sometimes violent history. Arguments involving union men and non-union are credible in both directions and many can see both points.
The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe, and the United States, in the period from 1760 to about 1840. Continuity of industrial tools, materials and processes initiated this transitioning from custom manufacturing (individual, one-at-a-time production) to mass production.
A character in American history we mostly remember for inventing the cotton gin was Eli Whitney. Born in 1765 and died in 1825, his greater accomplishment, however, was to develop “the system of interchangeable parts.” This led to the development of the assembly line type of production and the industrialized world was changed forever.
In the early days, conditions in the factories were dangerous and even deadly. Child labor was utilized, pay was minimal and working conditions had no governance.
For those in the industrial sector, organized labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. The labor movement led efforts to stop child labor, give health benefits and provide aid to workers who were injured or retired. For non-union people this may seem like over-kill but for those developing work related diseases or the injured, it was very reasonable.
A combination of factors has contributed to the success of American manufacturing and the accomplishing of “the American dream” for so many. The mass production of consumer products, capitalism, unlimited opportunities, and education are a beginning of those factors.
In the early years of America, people came to America to work and improve themselves and the nation. Work was a coveted endeavor and cherished by those immigrants. People came to America from many countries possessing the varied skills necessary to build a great nation.
We had the privilege of visiting Greenock, Scotland three years ago. Margie’s great, great grandparents sailed from there in 1836 to the New World to start a new life. They came to work and acquire the American Dream. They were also escaping the political and religious tyranny of the time.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.” The American work ethic, in the beginning of the industrial age, apparently came in line with the teachings of God because God, without a doubt, blessed America. People worked hard and “with all their might” to build America.
Colossians 3: 23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” This verse is almost a repeat of Ecclesiastes 9: 10. God is obviously teaching us to work and give it our best effort.
We live in a caring society. A motto used by one disaster relief agency we worked with was, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” America was built by hard working people that cared about each other.
In the current political arena in America and several European countries there is a tugging in opposite directions by the political left and right. Not to endorse either, it must be stated, Americans want what is the best for all concerned. The ideology of how to attain that state differs greatly.
No one I know wants to see anyone go hungry or live on the street. Because of many factors, we are seeing an increase of both those conditions. A part of that development can be attributed to our deteriorating, dysfunctional political arena both in America and abroad.
Quite unlike the American worker, many are dedicated to destroying their political adversaries rather than accomplishing the greater good. Many of the “American made” concepts that made this great nation are being used as political footballs.
Proverbs 14: 23 “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” I have worked enough building projects to know, there comes a time to regard the planning as satisfactory and get to work. I can sit and look at my saws and drills until I turn blue but unless I’m willing to get up and go to work, nothing will be accomplished.
We work as if we were working for God, because we are! Deuteronomy 10:14 “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.” A question asked over a corpse at a funeral: “I wonder how much he left?” The answer: “Every bit of it.”
Ecclesiastes 5:15 “As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.” From dust we came and to dust we shall return, but, we have eternity that the Bible/God promises. What greater reward could we ask for?
Romans 16: 23 “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever.” Working for and toward the glory of God, can we then focus on His priorities and not our own. This is not to say, God doesn’t want the best and most for us.
Mankind is God’s finest creation. Romans 5:8 “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What greater proof could God show to His creation, man, that He loves us above all?
Our work, both our earthly vocations and our divine callings, must command our attention and we must regard the importance of both. Jesus said, in no uncertain terms, in His last words before His ascension: Matthew 28: 18-20 “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” To work for Him is an honor and a privilege.
A Martin Luther King quote commanding attention is, “All Labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
When I was young, Labor Day marked the beginning of a school year, a hunting season and the end of summer. I regret that more emphasis wasn’t placed on the importance and great sacrificial contributions the laboring people meant to our great country.
We have failed as a people to recognize and appreciate the tradesmen and laborers that built America and keep America a great nation. We have also failed to pass along positive work ethics and an appreciation for the system that allows us to work and acquire the American dream.
Let us never forget the work they did and continue to do in the building and sustaining of America. Tradesmen, laboring men and women; we salute you!
Van Yandell is a retired industrial arts teacher, evangelist, and missionary and lives in Citrus County, Fla.