In my youth, desperate for money, I went to work at a steel mill. It was heavily unionised. I left as soon as I found another job. In the few short weeks that I worked there I received a lot of money, despite going on strike at least twice (once was over a ‘demarcation dispute—a manager secured something on a trailer with a rope; so they ‘pulled the pin.’) I stood in a couple of union meetings that made my hair stand on end. One Scotsman did his level best to look and sound as intimidating as legally possible, lest anyone contradict his gang’s will. Their mantra was ‘Unions have brought the working man out of servitude to the bosses…! Within a decade unionism was dead in New Zealand. Nearly 40 years later everyone is working more hours than ever, and for less.
I am reminded of the day labourers in the New Testament. Standing around from dawn until someone hired them. It was, ‘No work—No pay! Even if they did work, some weren’t paid. James curses the rich for exploiting the workers: “Look, the wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty” (Jm.5:4). God designed Israel to thrive, but only if they were faithful to His law. Knowing their sinful chosen nature, He set in place laws to protect workers and animals from exploitation. The Sabbath was a holy-day. A day off to honour God. Resting from labour in the same way God rested from creation. The Forth Commandment read, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work…” (Ex.20:8-9). Christians must stop work and offer thanks and praise to God. The kingdom of Christ suffers when we ‘slot in’ time for worship and Bible study to suit our work schedules. Admit it, worshipping with blurry eyes and a distracted mind is hardly worship at all. Jesus said it best: “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal” (John 6:27).