One of the aspects of banking that I most enjoyed was that I never had to work on Sunday. Thus, I could count on a Sabbath rest every week. Now, I recognize that some people (e.g., pastors, doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters) do have to work on Sundays. But they also need to find a Sabbath rest. Why? Why is it so important to rest one day out of every seven?
Timothy Keller, in his book Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (I would highly recommend this book!), writes that rest-particularly the concept of Sabbath rest-is vitally important for both the perspective and performance of our work. He bases that contention on the Biblical meaning of the Sabbath.
First, the command to observe the Sabbath as given in Exodus 20 is based upon the model of God’s working six days and resting on the seventh. We, as God’s creation, are told to imitate our Creator. This regular rhythm of work and rest is thus a celebration of our design. Secondly, the command to observe the Sabbath as given in Deuteronomy 5 is based upon God’s redemption of his people from slavery. As Keller notes, you are not a slave to your culture’s expectations, your family’s hopes, your employer’s demands, or even your own insecurities. The one-day-in-seven rest is thus a declaration of our freedom. Finally, practicing Sabbath rest is an act of trust, acknowledging that it is God-not we-who provides for us.
Thus, a Sabbath rest (Sunday, for most of us; for those whose occupation requires you to work on Sunday, please ask our pastors how they celebrate the Sabbath on another day of the week) is a blessing from God to remind us that he is our creator, redeemer, and provider. So, the question is, do we truly believe that? The word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word shabbat, which means “to cease or desist.” Can we really cease working for 24 hours out of every 168?
Growing up, I didn’t always appreciate the Sabbath. But one aspect of it that I loved: I never had to do homework on Sunday, not even Bible homework! That helped make it a day of rest. And it no doubt made me more productive the rest of the week, knowing that I would not do homework on Sunday. Here’s a little known fact: the Zip Code with the highest annual retail sales in the United States is 07652. That’s right: it’s Paramus, NJ, and the stores are only open six days a week.
In her book Keeping the Sabbath Wholly (another book I would highly recommend), Marva J. Dawn suggests that we not wear a watch on the Sabbath. I dare you to give that a try! Or, if you want to get really crazy, don’t use your cell phone for the entire day (it can be done). I cannot – and will not – give you rules for how to observe the Sabbath Day. But I would strongly urge you to observe a Sabbath day.
As those who have been created by, redeemed by, and sustained by our God, should we not express our faith in his care by ceasing our work, our productivity, our anxiety for an entire day; by spiritually, physically, emotionally, and intellectually resting in his love and his promises; by embracing the intentionality of the day, the community of believers, giving instead of getting; and by feasting in the house of Zion, feasting on the eternal, feasting on the Bread of Life and the Living Water?