Thank God for labour!

No, I’m not talking about the political party in the UK!

Japanese workers are known to be hard working!

Japanese workers are known for being hard-working!

Today is a national holiday in Japan called Labour Thanksgiving Day. National holidays don’t usually actually affect us that much, apart from the language school closes so we don’t have classes. But home-schooling continues and its also a chance to catch up on language study or other jobs that have fallen behind. Even for OMFers who have finished at language school, bank holidays are often good opportunities to meet up with people, do church fellowship events, outreach events, etc. so they are not really days off.

harvest time - photo by Gerry Balding

harvest time – photo by Gerry Balding

Apparently, this Labour Thanksgiving Day is the modern name for an ancient harvest festival. When we were living in London, where images of combine harvesters gathering grain are far removed from our daily life, at our church, Grace Church Hackney, we celebrated the UK harvest festival by celebrating the work people did and the skills of members of the church, doing a ‘skills swap’.

As a generalisation, Japan is a nation of hard workers, often working long hours with very little annual leave. It’s not unusual for business men to have just 1 week’s annual leave in the year.

But the 16 national holidays scattered through the year, along with the big summer festival, Obon (‘the festival of the dead’ – similar to Christmas in the UK in that everyone goes home for a few days), provide some much-needed relief from the daily grind.

It would be interesting to look further into the influence of Christianity on these holidays. Seven of these national holidays were established in 1948 when christianised America helped Japan to draft the new constitution after the war. Five have been introduced since then.

It’s not such a crazy idea when you think of it. Look at all the festivals in the Old Testament  – such as, the Passover feast, which was part of the Feast of Unleavened bread, the Feast of Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement which was part of the Feast of Booths (see Lev 23).

Obon dancing (photo by Takaki Wada)

Obon dancing (photo by Takaki Wada)

Obviously, there is a place for fasting. But there is a lot of feasting in the Bible! And a lot of holidays! And don’t forget the mandatory day of rest every week.

Today, however, is a day to thank God for work. He gave us 6 days a week to work. I’ve already in this post referred to it as the ‘daily grind’. I don’t know if you’re like me, but often work feels like a grind, something we have to do.

But the other day as I was listening to a podcast by Michael Hyatt (christian life coach) on the power of our words, I was reminded that it is actually a real privilege to have work to do. Many are unemployed and can’t find work. Many would love to work but are unable to for health reasons. So, instead of saying “I have to go to work”, we should say, “I get to go to work!”

Whatever our job is, if we are living on this earth, it means God has work for us to do, and He will keep giving us each breath and heartbeat until that work is finished.

We are not saved by our good works, we are saved by grace alone from the condemnation we deserve. Sometimes, though, we forget what we are saved for.

… Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Tit 2:14)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)

What a privilege that the Almighty Creator, the Mastermind of the Universe, the Commander in Chief of the Armies of Heaven, should employ us to do His work in His mission to unite all things in heaven and on earth under Christ as Head!

What about you? How do you feel about work? Are you thankful for the privilege of work? Or is it just a grind, a necessary evil to pay the bills?

  • Please pray for us that we would enjoy our work and see it as a blessing not a bore
  • Pray we would enjoy our rest too and be refreshed for our work