“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).
There is nothing like a good vacation to make you appreciate the rhythms and routines of everyday life. It is certainly valuable in our frailty as human beings to pause regularly to reflect and recoup. (Just an aside, today’s email is brought to you by the letter “R”). It is why we spend as a country hundreds of billions of dollars a year on vacations, and hour upon hour of planning and preparing for those vacations. It’s enough to leave anyone exhausted!
So, I am grateful to be sitting in my chair this morning, back at the thing that I love doing – being a pastor. I am grateful every Monday, but especially those Mondays following a vacation, that God designed us for work. But because our first parents disobeyed God in the Garden, everything we experience in this life is soiled by the stain of sin, including our work and vacations.
I often chuckle when someone bemoans the “entitlement” culture in which we live. This is certainly a legitimate concern, since we don’t want to disincentivize work. However, we never want to admit that we enjoy and embrace that entitlement when it comes to our time off. We think, “I deserve this vacation!” We then grind ourselves into the dirt in our preparation, then schedule three weeks of activities in one week’s time, and never actually accomplish the “rest” for which we long.
This occurs on the micro level of life as well. Who hasn’t belted out Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend”? And it compresses the goodness and benefit of work to legitimize my excesses on the weekend. We work 40+ hours a week so that we can kick back and enjoy the weekend, since I deserve the break. Or even the holidays that we enjoy as a society. Most people will reap the benefit of a day off next Monday with nary a thought of the huge cost by which it was brought to us. We have turned the holiday into another reason to cook out and drink beer, rather than pausing to reflect on the reason we have it!
Notwithstanding our sinful nature that promotes this self-indulgent lifestyle, one reason that this is true is because we have failed to understand that God intended for us to work six days and rest on the seventh. However, this is not a passive or indulgent rest. It is an active rest in the worship of the one, true God, and in the service of our neighbor.
This rhythm is intended to fit us for life in the kingdom of God. In the old covenant, this pattern was six days of work and one day of rest, reflecting the work of God in creation. However, it takes on a greater meaning when we understand what the fall of man has done to this “very good” creation. In a fallen world, work becomes hard, and we are never able to achieve the rest that we so desperately need. But Jesus has changed all of that.
For the follower of Christ, the pattern is now rest one day and work six. Sundays become a training ground for our labors under the sun, and allow us to rightly view work again. Yes, it will continue to be toilsome, but the goodness and benefit of work is also seen, as we perpetually rest in the finished work of Christ, and labor on in the strength of all that he has accomplished.
That is why it is such a necessity to gather with the saints in worship week after week after week. We need that rhythm and routine to grow us in the grace and wisdom and knowledge of our loving Father and faithful Son. Otherwise, they simply become a rut in which we toil under the sun, never able to find the rest we so desperately need.