We’ve been duped.
Western society, when it was linked at its core to Christianity, used to have strict laws about what you could and couldn’t do on Sunday. They took this idea straight from Jewish communities observing strict sabbath practices on Saturday. This was, of course, biblical.
But we have freedom.
When Jesus was confronted by the authorities about breaking the sabbath, He famously said “the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” In other words, the sabbath isn’t about religiously following a set of rules which make life more difficult, it is to bless and to support people.
The problem is, with our freedom, we begin to lose the practice of sabbath, until there is nothing left. We’ve been duped into busy-ness. And let’s be honest, it wasn’t Jesus’ statement on sabbath that freed us from restrictive Sunday laws. It was economics, our insatiable desire for more, and our obsession with having control over our own lives. We decided that our freedom ought to include the ability to shop on a Sunday, or get the laundry done on a Sunday, or get a jump on that project at work on a Sunday. Our lives are our lives, and we ought to be able to do whatever we want, whenever we want.
But we were duped. We used our freedom to fill up our schedules, when God’s intention was for us to have at least one day where we truly rest so that our whole lives could be filled in a very different way than what has become the norm of busy-ness.
When we look at the ten commandments, the law about keeping the sabbath should jump out as us. We break this commandment so frequently, but rarely will anyone call this out, even in the church. When was the last time you confessed to God about breaking sabbath, about not resting according to the pattern that was given by your Lord?
We have created a pattern in our lives of regular sin. We don’t rest enough. We don’t keep sabbath.
Most of us do take time off from our jobs. We don’t all work sixteen hour days, seven days a week. Even if we do work that much, we at least recognize that it is not healthy. So, if we aren’t working all week long, how can I claim that most of us are breaking sabbath every week?
Because there is more to work than only our jobs.
There are sports to take the kids to, there are meals to make, and houses to clean. There is that report than needs to be written. There is that quick meeting or phone call that must happen. There is yard work that has to get done, there is that overdue renovation. There is always something to do, and we fill our time with doing it.
I don’t think we should return to a time with restrictive laws. Even if I did think that, it isn’t going to happen. I do think we need a more broad definition of work when it comes to understanding the rest that God wants for us in our sabbath keeping.
We need to rest from busy work, from activities that drain us, from outside pressures to get everything done right now. We need to celebrate things like idleness, play, boredom, creation, worship, prayer, games, reading, and anything else that may bring you joy and refreshment.
The above reflection formed the opening of a longer message on Sabbath that was given at Prairie Presbyterian Church on June 11, 2017. You can watch the whole message below…
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