The Other Four-Letter Word: Rest
This article originally appeared at http://www.washingtoninst.org/.
“You look tired Deacon ‘Brown’.” “I am tired,” replied Brown. “I am very busy,” added Brown. This briefly captures my conversation with a brother at our church one Wednesday night. (Earlier that evening, I noticed Shannon dozing off in a meeting.)
Ask many people, “how are you doing?” And one answer is fairly universal: “I am busy.” We live in a frenetically-paced and rest-deprived society. To borrow the title of Kevin DeYoung’s insightful book, many of us are Crazy Busy. Yet, our Creator did not design us to be ‘crazy busy.’ We were not designed to be on the go 24/7. As image bearers, we are called to work – for to work is to image God, the consummate worker. However, to image God also means to rest from our work – where work is any activity other than rest or leisure. To rest means to ‘cease from doing, to cease from work’ (cf. Genesis 2:1-3). As one scholar put it, rest is “glorious inactivity and enjoyment.”
Biblical Grounds for Resting
The need to rest is grounded in the divine rhythm of work and rest demonstrated and instituted at creation. In Genesis 1:1-2:3 we find God working six days and we also find God resting on the seventh day He makes holy. Commenting on this passage, Theology of Work (TOW) scholars conclude, “God crowns his six days of work with a day of rest. While creating humanity was the climax of God’s creative work, resting on the seventh day was the climax of God’s creative week” (cf. theologyofwork.org). Later in the Pentateuch, God commands that His covenant people to rest again; specifically, in Deuteronomy 5:12-15.
In Exodus 20:11 and Genesis 2:2-3, the reason for taking a Sabbath rest is rooted in the idea that the Sabbath is a holy day. In Deuteronomy 5:12-15, however, the reason for resting is rooted in the deliverance of God’s people from Egyptian bondage. Similarly, the reason for our resting is rooted in our deliverance from bondage. In other words, redeemed people rest. By penning these words, Moses expected God’s people to reflect on their days of inhumane servitude at the hands of their former merciless and capricious Egyptian taskmasters. This reflection was then intended to move God’s people to treat mercifully every man, woman, or beast that was engaged in daily work. Moses wanted God’s redeemed people to plainly see how a Sabbath rest would not only benefit the servants of the household, but the masters as well (Dt. 5:14; Ex. 20:10). Christian supervisors have been shown mercy; they reciprocate by showing mercy to their employees by granting, encouraging and honoring their days of rest.
Four Final Thoughts
First, resting is not selfish; rather, rest is a means of self-care. Rested people are more productive. Rested people have more capacity to love and serve their neighbor. Rested people are more imaginative and innovative. Rest benefits us (and others).
Second, although Wi-Fi and portable technology such as iPads, laptop computers, cellphones, etc. makes it easy to violate a person’s rest, we must avoid violating our employees’ times of rest. We must honor, and not encroach upon, work-rest boundaries.
Third, resting imitates and honors God, the Creator God that rested. Working with our hands, heads and hearts images and honors God. Similarly, resting our hands, heads and hearts images and honors God, too.
Fourth, rest is a sign of trust. Resting reminds us that we are finite, feeble and utterly dependent creatures (I am guessing being called ‘feeble’ and ‘finite’ does not rest well with us; but we are feeble and finite and fallen). Resting communicates to God that He has the “whole world in His hands” and we do not.
Get Some Rest
In a gentle rebuking tone, I told Deacon Shannon, an active, gregarious and scrawny 80-year-old, “get some rest, brother.” Rest is good for us. Rest benefits us; endless working harms us. Unlike the Energizer Bunny, if we keep going and going, we will crash and burn. Redeemed people rest.
To the reader, I say “get some rest, brother or sister.” Because one thing is sure, our bodies will rebel and force us to rest. That is precisely why Deacon Brown was dosing off in a meeting that he was facilitating! So, I will say it again, “get some rest my brother and my sister.” And might I recommend as you rest, to read DeYoung’s little book, “Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem”? Like rest, this little book will benefit you.Topics: Overload and Burnout