Best of Daily Reflections: Labor of Love
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:3
Before my children were old enough to drive, I often found myself in the position of being a late night chauffeur. I'd stay up past my bedtime, drinking plenty of coffee, driving through the dark Texas night, avoiding deer running across the road, not because I would be paid or applauded. I would get a "Thank you, Dad," from my kids. But, otherwise, I drove them at considerable cost to myself because I care for them and wanted them to have friends and fun while being safe. You might say that my late night transportation service was a labor of love.
The phrase, "labor of love," refers to work done without financial compensation. It is work motivated by commitment, passion, or pleasure. The English phrase finds its roots in 1 Thessalonians 1:3, where the King James Version reads, "Remembering without ceasing your ... labour of love." This is a literal translation of the original Greek, the meaning of which is represented well by the NIV's "labor prompted by love."
To what does this phrase refer? Traditionally, many Christian commentators have assumed that Paul, the author of 1 Thessalonians, is obviously referring to Christian actions, such as forgiving others or sharing the Gospel with unbelievers. Yet, it seems unwise to limit our "labor" to such activities. For one thing, the Greek word translated here as "labor" suggests work that requires serious effort, what we'd call "hard work." Moreover, later in 1 Thessalonians, Paul connects love for others with an instruction to "work with your hands" (4:9-11). It seems that the labor that flows from love might very well include manual labor, the work we do each day to sustain life.
How might love motivate our daily work? Those of us who work to support our families make this connection on a regular basis. As my children have gone off to college, my wife has taken on new work in order to pay tuition bills. Sometimes she'd rather not get on a plane and fly off to do her job. But she does so faithfully because she loves our children and wants the best for them.
Could our daily work also be a loving response to God's love for us? Yes, it could indeed. The more we recognize how God's love permeates and gives meaning to our lives, the more we live each moment in light of this love. We offer our work to God as a gift of love, an act of worship. We labor, not only to pay the bills, not only to support our families, but in order to honor God by using well the gifts, talents, and opportunities he has given us. In this way, even our secular, day-to-day work can be, indeed, a "labor of love."
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you think of the work you do in life, whether in your office, your classroom, your store, or at home, in what way is your work a "labor of love"? How might you see everything you do in life as a loving response to God's love for you?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for creating me to work. Thank you for allowing me to participate in your work of helping this world to be fruitful, meaningful, and beautiful. Help me, Lord, to discover how my work—all of my work—might be a response to your love. May I offer to you all that I do. May it be a loving offering that honors you. Amen.