We saw yesterday how God rested, and set out a rhythm for work and rest. Here we see God giving some of the reasons why it’s important for us to rest, and how it’s still God’s gift for all creation even though many years have passed.
“‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 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 or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15 ESV)
He wants the Israelites to practice it, and to share it with those in their employ. Even their animals are included. But it’s more than that. It has to do with showing who their God is. God reminds them they were once slaves. The day of rest, the Sabbath, is a weekly emancipation from slavery.
They were being reminded by God, weekly, that they were created human beings, not pyramid building resources. Sabbath was part of their freedom – they belong to God, not pharaoh.
This is so important today. We can live in self-imposed slavery to career, money. Or fear. Or a form of slavery to work can be imposed by an exploitative company, a sex trafficker, a manipulative boss, etc.
Sabbath is a way for people who spend all week working to announce they are not just money making machines, they are God’s beloved children, and so they are free.
Yes, this is a limitation on work – it limits profits and production. And it wasn’t just weekly, the idea of Sabbath rest also applies to every seven years – when no fields could be worked. Imagine the statement of a nation that planned ahead like that, and took a year of rest to focus on other kinds of work. It would be very risky, but it was a way to show their trust in God, not themselves or their own risk management efforts. They may have been less productive, but they were free.
Question: How do you break free from the sense you are a slave to work? How can you show colleagues that there are more dimensions to your life than work?
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It can be very hard to find rest in our world. Between a Blackberry, kids, the home phone and social media, it can be hard to focus on anything, much less rest.
One study found that people who are interrupted by technology score 20 percent lower on a standard cognition test. A second demonstrated that some students, even when on their best behavior, can't concentrate on homework for more than two minutes without distracting themselves by using social media or writing an email.
We always wonder what we’re missing, what we should be doing, even when we’re supposed to be resting. With technology, we don’t have to suppress that – we can always know, we can always be available.
People say it’s harder and harder to unplug.
Even as I wrote this, I found myself turning to all kinds of distractions – it’s always when I try to focus on writing that I decide some amazing new change needs to be made to the app or social media. This makes it hard to work and rest – I’m constantly blending the two, and doing neither well as a result.
For this year’s vacation, I committed to turning my smartphone off, and only checking in once a day to make sure things are running smoothly with Redeem the Commute. I’ll have to physically make sure my phone isn’t around, because I know I’ll be tempted otherwise.
But that isn’t a foolproof formula – I can always go get my smartphone if I get too curious. Find rest can’t just be about strategies – because our problem is inside us. There is something inside me that is still wanting to check email, check the news, etc.
We’ll explore what that is, and what to replace it with this week.
Question: How do you “unplug” and rest? What strategies do you use?
Just in time for summer's blend of work and rest, Redeem the Commute is starting a new series of daily challenges to help busy people restore life to the commuting lifestyle. This seven week series will look at the meaning and purpose of work, rest, and ancient practices that have helped followers of Jesus to keep the two in perspective and balance for centuries.