The US holiday we commonly call “Labor Day” was “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” (The History of Labor Day”, US Gvt DOL website – http://www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/laborday.htm)
In times past, Labor Day was commonly referred to as the “working man’s holiday”. Specifically set aside in appreciation for the hard work of the American citizen (especially members of the Labor Unions).
When we look back at our lives, we can see our lives are filled with labor. We find ourselves laboring both at the workplace and at home to meet the needs of our families and to be productive citizens in our society.
But this morning I would like us to look at another type of labor that is absolutely necessary for each one of us…. laboring for eternity. For the next few minutes, we will try to take a quick look at this type of labor and why it is so important for each and every one of us.
John 6:26-27 KJV…
“Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”
In our text, the Lord clearly compares two different types of labor… labor for “the meat that perisheth” and labor for “the meat which endureth unto everlasting life”.
The Lord is speaking to those who had expended great effort to accompany him during his earthly ministry. Perhaps, they had walked many miles just to be with Him as He traveled from city to city.
This sounds like a great thing, right? To expend great effort to follow our Lord!
However, the Lord looked beyond their outward actions and looked at the reason why they were laboring to follow Him. When the motives in their heart were examined, the nature and value of their outward labors was greatly diminished.
You see, the motives behind their labors were entirely earthly in nature. The Lord explained to them that “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” In other words, they were going to such great lengths to follow the Lord solely to meet the earthly needs of their flesh.
They were NOT following the Lord because they saw His great miracles, recognized Him as the Messiah (the One sent from God) and then desired to be taught and learn of Him. No, they simply saw His miracles, recognized He could meet the needs of their flesh, and followed Him for fleshly satisfaction. All of their effort was expended to simply meet the needs of their flesh…. How sad indeed!
Please do not misunderstand, there is nothing wrong with working to meet the needs of our flesh, in actuality, the Lord commands us to do so…
2 Thessalonians 3:12 KJV – “Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”
1 Timothy 5:8 KJV – “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
The issue at hand is one of PRIORITY. Although it is important, and good, for one to labor to meet the needs of their physical flesh, there is a MUCH MORE important type of labor that is to be done…. Labor that is done to meet our eternal and spiritual needs.
This is what Christ meant when He said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life”. He was not minimizing the need to labor for our fleshly needs, He was simply emphasizing the much greater importance of laboring for our spiritual needs.
The multitudes following Him would have benefited in a much greater way if they were expending the effort to follow Christ with the motive of having their spiritual needs fulfilled. If they had done this, they would find themselves concentrating on His teachings and lifestyle. They would have understood that through His teachings and life they could have come to an understanding of their sinful condition, their need of a Savior and the way of salvation through this same Christ.
The same Jesus that supplied their physical needs, was the One that could supply their spiritual needs as well. Christ revealed the source of their greatly needed spiritual meat when He said “that meat which endureth unto everlasting life which the Son of man shall give unto you:” This was the reason they should have been following Christ… to receive the spiritual food that would give them everlasting life with Christ.
Why do we follow Christ?
Is it because we know that claiming the name of Christ makes us more popular in our neighborhood? Do we own a business and know we can increase our volume of customers by claiming we are a Christian?
Are we claiming Christ to please a spouse, other family member, or one we are currently dating? Perhaps, we are running for a public office and we are hoping to gain the “Christian vote” by outwardly following Christ?
All of these motives, and many others, are ways we can follow Christ to meet our fleshly wants and needs. Are these the central motives that strengthen us to follow Christ?
Or do we see the great need for expending our efforts towards securing everlasting life with Christ above all else?
Are we following Him because we recognize who He is and what He has done for us?
Do we see Him as the One sent by God to be the Saviour of the world?
Are we giving our full attention to Christ, so we can learn of Him, seek His face, recognize our sinful ways, and find deliverance from those sins through repentance and faith in Him and His work on the cross of Calvary?
And then, will we place our energies into sharing this same Christ with others, so that they may find forgiveness of their sins through Him?
This is the great choice that Christ has placed before us this Labor Day…
Going forward into the rest of this year and in the years to come, are we going to give first priority in our lives to seeking Christ for our spiritual needs?
Or, will we find ourselves following Christ to simply meet the physical needs of our lives while ignoring the great spiritual, eternal needs that we have?
The decision we make holds eternal consequences for each one of us… may the Lord grant us grace to put first things first and be laboring for “that meat which endureth unto everlasting life which the Son of man shall give unto you:”