8 Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. 9 Six days you may work and do all your tasks, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you.11 Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Exodus 20:1-17 CEB
From the very beginning of creation, God established the day off. In the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, a list often perceived as a list of things not to do, there is listed something we in the West see not as a vice, but a virtue: work. God tells Israel to stop, for one day a week, and rest.
The need for a resurgence of rest has entered into the popular milieu. It has become vogue to speak about the benefits of rest. Recently, there has been hearing an increase of news reports on the benefits of time off. There are studies on how healthy work-home separation increases productivity. NPR reported Germany is considering barring bosses emailing employees after 6pm at night. Some companies count employees off in performance reviews for spending too much time at work, fearing an unbalanced schedule hinders productivity. It seems rest can be good for business.
Church communities also emphasize Sabbath as a day to worship. Neither of these reasons-- productivity or worship-- are ones the Decalogue gives for God instituting a day of rest. As Walter Bruggeman wrote in Journey to the Common Good, “Sabbath, in the first instance, is not about worship. It is about work stoppage. It is about withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharaoh, the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production and consumption and the endless pursuit of private well-being.” God’s act of creating is used for a model for Sabbath is not the only season where God has set a model for us. We have an ultimate example in Christ. Lenten season is itself modeled after Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness which began right after his baptism. Traditionally, each Sunday in lent is like a mini-preview of Easter: it is made to rest and breaking the fast is acceptable on Sundays. Rest is part of Lenten practice; it is one of the ways we become imitators of Christ. The Sabbath, Jesus said was made for humanity, not for the benefits to productivity, not for the ability to have good church programming, and humanity was not made for the Sabbath. The commandment is deceptively hard to keep, but it is worth keeping.
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You created rest for us. I pray your Sabbath might free me from the burden of my worth being in my work. Teach me that my worth is in being your creation. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
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Jonathan is an English and Journalism teacher in Kentucky. He has a B.A. in English and History form Georgetown College. Jonathan has a Mom and Dad who live in Ohio and a brother attending Georgetown College. He lives with two roommates in a townhouse with décor accurately described as “bachelor pad auction house chic”. Jonathan is a member of Georgetown Baptist church. He studies Church history and plays Super Smash Bros. in his free time.