Work and rest: What God’s Word says and how society responds (Part 2 of ?)

Posted on Posted in Faith, Life

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27

I’m not sure who this post will be most helpful for: workaholics who have a hard time resting, or “rest-aholics” who don’t work enough or even know how to really rest. Either way, I hope this can encourage you in some way.

The purpose of this post is not to dive in to whether the Sabbath is really on Saturday, Sunday, or whatever day you think it should be (that would be a much longer discussion and one in which I’m probably not qualified to lead). The purpose of this post is to just encourage you to take the first step and actually observe the Sabbath weekly. A simplified explanation is basically that God took six days to create (work) and then rested on the seventh. If we are made in God’s own image, why should we try to do it any differently?

Obviously, God didn’t need to rest on the 7th day, but I believe God was modeling for us, and revealing to us through Scripture, what is best for us. Work six, rest one.  For most of us, it’s kinda easy to take the one day off, but what we sometimes forget is to work six. American culture has built this view of the work week being five days on and two days off. It’s just kind of how the schedule for many professions has developed.  I’m not here to say that everyone should run straight to their boss and ask if you can work the next Saturday shift, but what I do hope to get across is that I believe that we are at our best and most closely follow God’s will for our working lives when we make an effort to follow His model set forth in Genesis.

In relation to the above points (and everything I say, really), please don’t interpret what I’m saying as legalistic. Maybe your weekend work looks differently than your weekday work.  Maybe instead of going into the office, you spend all day Saturday building a new porch for your family to enjoy, or serving the local homeless shelter, or investing into the lives of your kids or others that you mentor, or a number of things.  The point is to not waste your time doing things of little or no value.

But back to the main focus of this post: rest. It’s interesting to think that we would even need to take a look at how to rest, because everyone has their own thing that they do to unwind, and generally people rather enjoy that thing. But how beneficial is it, or even restful and re-energizing, to spent 12 hours on the weekend playing “Call of Duty”? Or to regularly skip church to enjoy a golf outing?  Aside from all of the health implications that over working can cause, I want to take a look at what Scripture says about rest.

We had a series a few years ago at RUF Mercer where we studied the Ten Commandments and how we can use them to love God more rather than how they are used to “restrict” us. I’ll never forget a portion of the week we studied #4:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11 ESV)

My RUF Campus Pastor then advised us to “stop doing homework on Sundays.” Many students who heard this claimed that doing homework wasn’t “working” since they were still in school and didn’t have a job yet. But let’s face it, the job of a student is to be a student. Please also understand how Mercer is a little different from other larger state schools. The “private school” factor of Mercer seems to attract students who busy themselves so much that their schedules rarely allows for spontaneity and it seems like some people are always studying or doing homework (I’m just as guilty as any other). So this was not a light statement to make at Mercer.

His points did not end there though. As he explained to us, the Commandments shouldn’t be viewed as simply a list of things to do and not to do, but rather as a call to actively love God through our lives. While I was unsure how to respond at first, I have to say that after a few trial runs of planning around Sundays for completing homework/studying, it was far more a blessing than an inconvenience for sure. The idea of truly setting aside one day of week to refocus your mind, refresh your spirit, and re-energize your body, really forces you to work harder on the other days in preparation for taking a day off. It also allows you to honor God by making the most of your day off from your regular work schedule. Not only was the Sabbath day a major blessing in itself, I found it very helpful for the rest of the week. It didn’t take long at all before I was convinced to make this “no homework on Sundays” practice a regular thing!

(I highly recommend you take 47 minutes and 10 seconds to listen to this sermon by clicking here.  Buck does a much better job at explaining it all and providing Biblical understanding on this topic. Click the sermon audio for Oct 6, 2011. This isn’t the exact audio from when I heard it early on in my college career, but it’s the same content that was covered.)

So now some of you may be saying, “Well what about that crazy week when I have deadlines to meet and I have no choice but to put in 65+ hours?” I get it, I totally do. All of us, at some point, regardless of what career path we’ve chosen, have weeks like this. I don’t think it’s wrong to put in extended work weeks when the time calls for it. In fact, I think it’s often the more responsible thing to do.  But I would ask if these weeks are becoming too frequent? It is having negative effects on your family life? Are you taking time off to truly rest?

God built us for work AND rest. Together.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV)

Or maybe you’re thinking, “I deserve a vacation, is it wrong of me to go spend a week at the beach with my family?” Not necessarily. Just like we need a weekly day of rest, a time of extended rest at certain times can be very helpful. I would ask the same question, though. Are these trips becoming too frequent to the point where your working life is neglected? Is this time of rest helpful for your family? Can you afford this?


So do you really rest?
How so?

Now that God’s Word has hopefully convinced you to at least consider taking a Sabbath each week, next we’ll take a look at how you can rest, and rest well.

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