If we are honest about our lives in 21st century America, we are more likely to overwork. Not for the provision of “our daily bread,” but out of our desire for “something more”. Things like: bigger houses, nicer neighborhoods, more respect, greater admiration, or more knowledge, so people will be impressed by us. Sadly, the reality behind that kind of work is that it’s motivation stems from deep pride and a desire for control.
Traditionally it has not been the case to have this kind of twisted motivation surrounding our hard work. For most of human history, the need to work hard came out of a desire to eat, for shelter, and to care for our families. But very recently, somewhere within the last 100 years, going without has not been a concern for most of us in western middle-class society. We, in all reality, have more than we need, but we still work harder and for more hours than is necessary to sustain the excess of our basic needs.
Our needs have been replaced by our wants. When we discovered we had achieved what we needed, we didn’t find contentment, but simply moved on to our wants to see if contentment could be found there. And sadly all of this overwork resulted in a lack of understanding for most of us when it comes to biblical rest.
God established for us in creation a pattern that would lead to our flourishing. Six days of work and one day of rest. He commanded that we should keep this day of rest or Sabbath holy and do no work on it (Gen 2:1-3).
It shows for us, God’s people, that although we could work seven days a week, we are not meant to. Why?
Even if we worked an extra day a week, had an extra day’s pay in the bank, and were one step closer to achieving whatever it is we are striving for, doing so actually shows that, in our hearts, we don’t trust God to provide for our needs and give us good gifts. For example, when the Israelites were in the wilderness, God provided for them double manna on the day before the Sabbath. So they could enjoy his provision for them on the actual Sabbath (Exo 16:22-26), and not have to go out to find food while they were meant to be resting.
Our rest, or lack thereof, actually reveals what we believe about God and his relationship with us. If we trust him to be in control of our lives and be the ultimate provider for us, then to rest from work and enjoy his provision for one day per week shows a trust and belief in who he revealed himself to be.
On the flip side, many of us fall prey to laziness and a lack of work that actually shows disrespect for God’s good intentions for us in work, but that is a post for another time.
To trust God by taking a day off and simply enjoy him, we are screaming to those who are trying to earn, win, or hunt for blessing or provision in a frenzied manner: “I am free to work hard, but ultimately I can rest because I’m not the one in control, but I know the one who is and he loves me!”
If God is in control, if God cares about every detail of my life, if God loves me and if God is faithful to his word (all things I believe he is). Our gospel-centered witness to a lost and dying world doesn’t include us working every single day of the week and can sometimes be as simple as joyfully going to the beach with our family, mowing the lawn, or baking a cake. In the scriptures there is a distinctly modeled correlation between receiving Sabbath rest and enjoyment (Lev 26:24, 2 Chron 36:21, Ps 92:4), and as long as the things we do in our rest are done in a posture of thankfulness to God for all he has done for us and how much he loves us, this brings God glory as he is shown to be mightily powerful in his provision for his people.
God wants you to rest for your good and his glory. As you do, please remember the words of Jesus to the legalistic Pharisees who were making work out of rest:
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27
Enjoy your time off, whether it is just a day or some extended time on vacation. It is a gift from God and tells the world around us, just how great he is.
P.S. If you need some help aligning the posture of your heart with biblical rest, read Psalm 92. It is a psalm that was written for worship on the Sabbath and should help you re-focus.