It was years ago when I first heard of Lawrence Hummel. National news wires reported the death of this self-educated janitor who wore his lawyer’s hand-me-downs, but left over $600,000 to Bethany College in northern West Virginia, where he mopped floors for 30 years.
Hummel had amassed a million-dollar fortune from the stock market with knowledge gleaned from discussions with professors and from economics classes at the college. Even so, to the end of his life Hummel continued to live frugally.
“If you saw him and talked with him, “ said Joseph Gompers, his lawyer, “you might confuse him with a bum. But he wasn’t. He was a warm, compassionate person who cared about people.”
The story made news because Lawrence Hummel was different. According to the standards of contemporary American culture, he was even something of a misfit. He saw no need to turn his wealth into any of the normally accepted symbols of the American dream: clothes, travel, homes, or cars. Work had a higher purpose. Thoughtful Christians have always claimed the same thing—that work has a purpose beyond paychecks and interest rates.
Today as you enjoy your “Labor Day” take a few moments to realize the worth and value of your labor. Too much of America is trying to conduct business with little concern for right and wrong. Morality is supposedly a personal matter. But followers of Christ know better. Like Lawrence Hummel, we have an unusual view of work. We hold that the gospel brings responsibility, dignity, and purpose to what happens in the shop or office. Jesus, after all, was a carpenter. And God has purposes for our work that go far beyond our day-to-day tasks.
As you enjoy your “Labor Day,” determine not to labor under false pretenses. What you do and how you do it . . . matters to God and to others!