William H. Curtis Ministries - Matthew 11:28-30

Why We Labor and Why We Rest

Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. 

Proverbs 13:4

A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,

but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

In the whole of the American calendar, there aren’t many holidays that we fail to understand the meaning of quite like Labor Day. We have our religious holidays in Christmas and Easter; our patriotic days in Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans’ Day, and Thanksgiving; and our fun holidays like New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day. And then there’s Labor Day, sitting there at the beginning of September. We’re glad to take the day off, but do we really understand why the day is on the calendar at all?

The US Department of Labor defines Labor Day as “a creation of the labor movement that is 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.”

I want to take this opportunity to focus on what God wants from us in our work, and in our rest.

In Matthew 11, the Lord tells us to come to Him if we are “weary and burdened,” and to “take my yoke upon you.” There is, within this passage, an assumption of hard work done. We are already “weary” when we seek God. We have already pulled the yoke a long way. When God beckons us to join Him, He doesn’t say, “drop the yoke and relax for a bit,” He says, “take my yoke upon you.”

Now, why would He say that? Why doesn’t His rest include a bed and some breakfast instead of a different yoke from the one we’re used to? Isn’t that just trading masters? 

The truth is, God does want work from us, but He tells us not to worry. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

The point is clear, then. When we work for God, our work is easy, and we in fact rest as we work. Our souls are eased, our labor feels light. It is only when we work for ourselves that we grow tired, that we grow weary and are burdened. 

This is the same sentiment echoed in Proverbs 13. Here, we see why God wants us to continue to work hard even as we rest. “A sluggard’s appetite,” we learn, “is never filled.” God knows our human nature, and He knows that if we get things for cheap, we don’t tend to respect them. Think of the last thing you worked hard to buy: that car, that house, that PS4. I bet even today you look at it, and you feel some pride over what you’ve accomplished. You look at it, and you see all the hours you sweated away. 

But if that same object had been given to you, no matter how precious, you would come to disdain it after a while. You’d want something new, you’d get frustrated with its little failures. You’d want the sports car not the sedan. You’d want the mansion not the two-story. You’d want an Xbox One and a new PC to go with the PS4. 

That’s why we have to continue to work hard for God, even as we take a break from our other labors. We don’t want a “sluggard’s appetite” that can never be satisfied no matter how much it is fed by grace. We want to be “fully satisfied” in the Lord, in all of His incredible gifts. And, once we accept this spiritual labor, we will find that the “yoke is easy.” 

Once we have done the hard work of taking the Lord into our hearts, we will find the hill is not as steep as we thought, and carrying that burden up is no longer a chore, it is a blessing.

On a day that is little more than an excuse for a well-earned barbecue, it’s worth a little time to consider the way we work when we search for God. We stand at the end of a long line of conquerors who have fought for an extra day off at the end of summer so they, like us, could get down to the real work of life—worship and family.

That line doesn’t end with us. It is our burden to push that little bit harder for respect for our work and to pull our cart a little farther to get closer to God.