This Labor Day, Let’s Celebrate the Dignity of Work

Send in your submission on or before September 5 to celebrate with us. Read on for details...

Labor Day is just around the corner – Monday, September 5. You’re probably well aware of this because it means a day off for many workers. This year, we invite you join the Denver Institute community as we reflect on and celebrate the dignity of work (whether you have the day off or not).

The History of Labor Day
Labor Day came about during a tumultuous time in American history. According to sociologist Jonathan Cutler, in the late 1800s, workers clashed (sometimes violently) with “Big Business” interests in the midst of a “drive to undermine wages and living standards.” In response labor organizers created ways for the American worker to push-back with a message of less work, more pay: May Day and Labor Day. Although May Day is less broadly celebrated today in the U.S., Labor Day became an official federal holiday in 1894. And as Cutler explains, “Labor Day celebrates the ‘dignity’ of work.”

Celebrating the Dignity of Work
We’re inviting our Denver Institute community to do more than just savor a day off. Here’s how to participate:

  1. Reflect on the intrinsic value of work. By “intrinsic value” we mean that work – whether you’re restocking shelves at the store, tweeting about your company’s latest product release, or prepping curriculum for your third grade students – is, in its essence, valuable. Why? Because God built you for work. When you work, you reflect God’s role as Creator. In Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey writes, "We could even say that we are called to continue God's own creative work."
  2. Identify one way in which your work reflects God’s work in the world today. We’re using Robert Banks’ descriptions of various sorts of work from Faith Goes to Work: Reflections from the Marketplace to help name the ways in which God is a worker and, in turn, identify where your work fits. Banks’ types of work are*:
  • Redemptive work – God’s saving and reconciling actions. Humans participate in this kind of work, for example, as evangelists, pastors, counselors and peacemakers. So do writers, artists, producers, songwriters, poets and actors who incorporate redemptive elements in their stories, novels, songs, films, performances and other works.
  • Creative work – God’s fashioning of the physical and human world. God gives humans creativity. People in the arts (sculptors, actors, painters, musicians, poets and so on) display this, as do seamstresses, as well as interior designers, metalworkers, carpenters, builders, fashion designers, architects, novelists and urban planners (and more).
  • Providential work – God’s provision for and sustaining of humans and the creation. “The work of divine providence includes all that God does to maintain the universe and human life in an orderly and beneficial fashion,” Banks writes. “This includes conserving, sustaining, and replenishing, in addition to creating and redeeming the world.” Thus, innumerable individuals — bureaucrats, public utility workers, public policymakers, shop keepers, career counselors, shipbuilders, farmers, firemen, repairmen, printers, transport workers, IT specialists, entrepreneurs, bankers and brokers, meteorologists, research technicians, civil servants, business school professors, mechanics, engineers, building inspectors, machinists, statisticians, plumbers, welders, janitors — and all who help keep the economic and political order working smoothly — reflect this aspect of God’s labor.
  • Justice work – God’s maintenance of justice. Judges, lawyers, paralegals, government regulators, legal secretaries, city managers, prison wardens and guards, policy researchers and advocates, law professors, diplomats, supervisors, administrators and law enforcement personnel participate in God’s work of maintaining justice.
  • Compassionate work – God’s involvement in comforting, healing, guiding and shepherding. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, psychologists, therapists, social workers, pharmacists, community workers, nonprofit directors, emergency medical technicians, counselors and welfare agents all reflect this aspect of God’s labor.
  • Revelatory work – God’s work to enlighten with truth. Preachers, scientists, educators, journalists, scholars and writers are all involved in this sort of work.

Can you see where your work fits into God’s work? We hope so!

  1. Send us a picture and your reflection on the dignity of your work on or before Sept. 5. In the photo, show us your workplace, the people you serve through your daily work, or the end result of your work – something you created. Then write a one or two sentence reflection on the dignity of your work. Finally, share both of those with us so we can share it with others in our community. Submit through email (, tweet it to us (@DenverInstitute), or post it to our Facebook page. We hope to hear from you on or before Sept. 5.

* These summaries are from Amy Sherman’s book Kingdom Calling.

Featured photo is the first U.S. Labor Day parade on September 5, 1882 in New York City.