The word of the day is “labor.” In today’s reading of 1 Corinthians 15:58-16:3, St. Paul moves from his discussion of the resurrection of the dead in the age to come to our work in this age. The Apostle writes, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (vs. 58).
Whatever Our Work, We Serve the Lord
How different is this view of our vocation than the notion of work today! Our economy values workers who are adaptable, not “steadfast,” mobile not “immovable,” and productive as measured by the numbers, not “abounding in the work of the Lord.” But those who hope in the resurrection have a different attitude. Their labor is “in the Lord” (vs. 58). In Ephesians, Paul instructs “bondservants” to do their work “as to Christ “ and “with goodwill doing service to the Lord and not to men” (Ephesians 6:5 & 7). Likewise, whatever our calling, we should dedicate our labor to the Lord. When it is so devoted to serving Christ, it becomes His work, not ours.
In Due Season We Will Reap
In that case, we found our work as well as our lives on the firm and unmovable Rock of Christ (Luke 20:17) and His Word (Mt 7:24-25). And it is God who works His will through us. It’s like farming. We plant, till, and gather. But God causes the plants to grow into an abundant harvest (Ps. 104:14). Therefore, we need not worry about results as the secular employees do. When we “commend ourselves and all of our lives to Christ our God” (Divine Liturgy), God will ensure that our labor is not “in vain.” That is, it will not be empty and unfulfilled (Strong’s #2756, 137). Thus, Paul promises, “And do not be weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Gal. 5:9).
St. John Chrysostom compares the labor of Adam with the work of believers. When God put Adam out of the Garden, human work became toil as a punishment for sin. But the work of believers is no longer drudgery because of its divine rewards. Therefore, Chrysostom says we should no longer call it “labor” because of its rewards and because of the help that God gives it. Adams’s work was for a penalty. Ours is for service to God and the “good things to come” (NfPf1: 12, 257). Yet we should not overlook those who endure toil, drudgery, and danger at work. At this critical time, we should thank God for these underappreciated workers and give them the support that they deserve. Yet they too can dedicate their work to the Lord and know that in Him, it is not “in vain.”