Signposts: Daily Devotions

Monday, September 1

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
—Matthew 11: 28-30

Labor Day (U.S.)

In the United States, today is set aside to honor those who work by giving them a day off, a time to rest. As odd as this may sound, I think Labor Day has great religious significance. It harkens back to the Biblical imperative to rest one day in seven, which used to be fulfilled by refraining from work on Sunday. Not any more.

Why have we turned away from the wisdom of taking time off? Why do we fill every day with activity and errands? Why do we push ourselves to do more, achieve more? We’d all answer differently, but there may be a common thread running through this tapestry of frantic activity: The idea that we are indispensable. 

As Barbara Brown Taylor writes in a sermon on this text, “I may believe that I live by God’s grace, but I act like a scout collecting merit badges….I may believe that my life depends on my relationship with God, but I act like it depends on me.” Ouch. 

She then says that the yoke Jesus mentions in Matthew’s gospel is a double yoke, not a single one that, though more efficient, exhausts the bearer quickly. The double yoke is shared so that one can rest a little while the other pulls.

Plenty of us labor under the illusion that our yokes are single ones, that we have to go it alone, that the only way to please God is to load ourselves down with heavy requirements—good deeds, pure thoughts, blameless lives, perfect obedience,  all those rules we make and break—while all the time Jesus is standing right there in front of us, half a shared yoke across his own shoulders, the other half wide open and waiting for us.

She concludes, “No wonder those words have weathered the centuries so well. They assure us that those who please God are not those who can carry the heaviest loads alone, but those who are willing to share their loads.”

On this Labor Day, will you join me in doing absolutely nothing?  Will you join me in taking a deep breath, putting my feet up, and resting, with the sure and certain promise that I am part of a holy team?

Help us, O Lord, to accept your presence in all we do. Lighten our sense of responsibility and give us your peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

The Signposts for September are written by Margaret Jones and originally appeared on explorefaith in 2005.