When I looked at my calendar last week I noticed something unusual. There was nothing, literally zero little colored blocks, on the Saturday column. It was glorious discovery and I embraced it fully.
I slept until I naturally woke up (which unfortunately isn’t very late for me anymore), spent the morning drinking coffee and reading some books, put my feet up for a little college football in the afternoon, and went out for dinner with the family that evening. It was a beautiful, restful, re-energizing sabbath.
The Importance of Rest
We are told to rest. Taking a day away from work each week started in Genesis 2 when the Creator of the Universe modeled it for us. Not only is rest a gift from God, it’s also a regular reminder that the world doesn’t rise and fall our ability to get things done. We are needy people who require rest and find our strength in our dependence on Jesus.
While this gift of rest is something our American culture inherently struggles with (only enhanced by technology’s ability to keep us virtually connected to our work at all times), there seems to be an emerging counterculture movement that almost celebrates rest as the ultimate pursuit of human existence. This is perplexing to me.
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
While work is broken by sin, while manic productivity has become an idol of our capitalistic culture, while we can wrongly place our identity in our career, work itself is not the enemy of our souls. In fact, we were created to work! Not to earn our name and God’s favor (that work was finished by Jesus), but to honor God and serve our neighbors with the work of our hands.
Pick something in this life and you and I can make an idol of it. Even the good things. Perhaps especially the good things! But while we’ve all seen countless examples of the workaholic dad that misses all his kid’s basketball games or the stressed out entrepreneur that loses her family in pursuit of her startup dream, the truth is we can make an idol out of our families and our leisure time too!
In Mark 2:27, Jesus reminds us that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” We weren’t made for rest, rest is a gift from God. We were made to dream, create, cultivate, to make culture and add value to the world around us in big a small ways. We were created to “work and take care of” God’s creation as His vice-regents and image-bearers. That mandate is meant to be lived out in the board room and the family room.
So here’s my encouragement to all of us today: Be aware of your sinful ability to turn work into a self-salvation project, but don’t make work the enemy.
Who Are You?
Have you succumbed to our Western culture’s margin-less worship of work? Is it where you find you find your identity and seek to make a name for yourself? Do you struggle to turn off your work and focus on your family, friends, and mental health? Then repent and embrace rest as the gift of God that it is. The world can get along fine without each of us for a few hours each week, and that’s good to remember.
Have you made work into the enemy? Stop it! You were created to work! Whether you’re closing a multimillion dollar deal, performing brain surgery, folding laundry, or assembling a piece of IKEA furniture for your wife, serving others and adding value to the world around you (in both exceptional and simple ways) is part of the human vocation.
Rest is a gift, but you were made to work.