Enjoy the Pastor's Article from our monthly newsletter

FROM THE PASTOR

 

You need a break – if not today or tomorrow – within a week.  Taking a break from our routines of work is not just a recommendation; it is a command in scripture.  Cycles of work and rest are part of God’s plan for his people.  The weekly Sabbath is closely identified with Israel’s special covenant with God, but the pattern of work and rest was set long before the time of Moses.  It is the framework of the creation account in Genesis chapter one.  God worked for six days and rested on the seventh.  He instructs us to follow his lead.

 

A weekly day of rest has many benefits.  An obvious one is physical renewal.  We are not designed for endless work.  Our bodies break down fast enough on their own without us abusing them.  Rest allows them to recover.  The Israelites were commanded to keep the weekly Sabbath for the sake of their hired hands, slaves, and even their animals.  Greedy overwork and physical exhaustion can grind mortal creatures into the dust.  Our bodies and emotions need regular times of refreshment. 

 

A second benefit of rest is spiritual.  A break from work gives us time to worship and reflect.  We are free to look up instead of down for a whole day.  We tend to think of the ritualistic aspects of the Jewish Sabbath and draw back from legalism.  Yet, we must not overlook its spiritual blessings.  The Sabbath was an acted declaration of faith in the nature and promises of God.  Israel was to stop working, even in harvest and planting times, to show trust in God as the ultimate provider.   As a nation of farmers, they knew the importance of these critical times.  The law specifically instructs them to stop work as an act of faith, even when it did not make sense to do so.  In this way, it protected them from themselves.  There is always an excuse to push just a little farther.  Keeping Sabbath cuts this off. 

 

There are also seasons of rest instructed in the scriptures.  Every seven years the land was to lay untilled.  Every fifty years a Jubilee was celebrated.  Our practical minds immediately ask, “How could they make that work?  The forty-ninth and fiftieth years would both be years of rest.  What did they do for two years?  How did they feed themselves?”  I doubt that we ever think, ”God certainly takes breaks from work seriously.”  God planned a two-year long break for his people and his land every fifty years.  He even promised to take care of all the logistics.

 

It seems to me that we should also take breaks seriously.  They are part of God’s good plan for the human race.  A weekly Sabbath is a necessity.  Sunday is a great day, but not the only possible day, to keep Sabbath.  A carefully planned and budgeted vacation is not materialistic and certainly not wasted effort.  From the pattern set for Israel we learn that it can actually be an act of faith.

 

After making a plea for the importance of planned rest, let me warn about the dangers of too much rest.  That is also a physical and spiritual problem.  The scriptural pattern is six days of work and then one day of rest.  We are designed to work, not sit around and stare at TV.  One of my early bosses took this command seriously and we worked six ten hour days each week.  That was great for me when I was earning money to pay for college. 

 

This second warning is important enough to be repeated twice in Proverbs.  Chapters 6 and 24 contain the exact words about too much rest.  "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest"-- And your poverty will come in like a vagabond, and your need like an armed man.  Work is the baseline activity of our lives.  We are expected to focus our energies and use our gifts to serve God and others.  Rest is the necessary exception.  A small amount of it is just right to achieve our maximum potential.  We will be better people with the right mix of work and rest.