“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).
Labor Day in America!
A Holiday where we celebrate the fruits of our labors . . . by not laboring.
But I have grave concerns over the condition of the good ole’ traditional American work ethic. How can there be so many jobs right now and so few laborers? Did the government COVID handouts really do this much damage to our national psyche? Is the soul of our Nation truly now to work as little as possible and look to the government to give us everything? Well, I hope not.
The idea of hard work has permeated this great country since its founding. For hundreds of years, people have come to America because, “If you work hard, you can make it here. And, you can make it quite comfortably.” Well, I hope so, even as I watch that dream die before my eyes at the hands of Marxist policies now being embraced by more of my countrymen than I ever thought possible. But maybe, just maybe, even that wrong can be righted by good ole-fashioned blood, sweat and tears (and voters recovering their American roots and sanity).
But there’s one arena where our ceaseless drive to work hard must cease.
Some two thousand years ago, Jesus stood before a crowd of hard-working, Law-abiding Jews. These Jews had for hundreds of years been sold a bill of goods by their rabbis. They had been told that law-works, or outward conformity to God’s legal commands, could and would get and keep them in good stead with Almighty God. It was this very works-righteousness salvation that Jesus demolished in the Sermon on the Mount. Therein, He reminded those crowds that God looks not just at outward conformity, but also to inward propensity.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks upon a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
The remedy was to build your life upon the Rock who is Jesus, the Righteous Law-fulfiller (Matt 5:17). To hear and heed His word. This is the only hope of enduring the torrential flood of God’s judgment that awaits all unredeemed sinners (Matt 7:24-27).
Salvation, forgiveness of sins, a right standing with a Holy God, is all of grace. It is by grace through faith in Jesus alone.
“We also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
“For grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
When Jesus commanded all those who labored and were heavy laden to come to Him for rest, He was not referring to physical tiredness due to a long, hot day in the olive orchards. No! This is the invitation to trust in the work of Christ for salvation; and to cease striving after it by your own wit, will, wisdom and works. This is justification by faith in Jesus alone.
The Greek has an active participle. So, more literally, it is “All those who are toiling / laboring.” This is further described by a perfect, passive participle – “having been wearied” or “being wearied under burden.” Do you see it? Trying to earn your way into God’s graces is the most soul-deep, wearisome, exhausting endeavor that anyone ever undertakes. Why?
Because it is the quintessential definition of impossible.
Jesus echoes the Psalmist here: “Be still (or cease striving) and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10).
The rest Jesus promises is spiritual. Soul-rest. The Greek verb can mean both “revive” and “quiet / give rest.” Indeed. Those who are tired of trying to earn God’s favor, who are trying to deceive themselves into thinking they’re not that bad, that they’re not sinners through-and-through, will by faith alone in Jesus alone be brought to life. Revived. To a life of everlasting rest. A quiet peace in the all-sufficient Person and work of Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
“Take My yoke upon you, and learn of 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 11:29-30).
So, this Labor Day, why not stop laboring? Why not come to Jesus?
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