Rethinking Sabbath as a gift

“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work…For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.” Exodus 20:8-11 (MSG)

“I’m so busy!” seems to be the most common response I hear from others when they are asked how they are doing. In our 24/7 world it is hard not to feel perpetually busy. We experience demands from work, our families and friends, our neighborhoods and communities, and even our churches. Many of us work in jobs that do not have clear time boundaries. So while we may not have to clock in and out, that also means our work can follow us home. There is always more to do. And increasingly our lives feel stretched to their limits.

In a recent conversation with a woman who had young children and a full-time job, she said she feels like she has to split herself in two in order to get everything done. There is never any downtime. I wanted to tell her, “This is not what God wants for you!” When we look at Scripture, we see God working for six days to create the universe, and then resting on the seventh day. Our all-powerful God does not need to rest to recharge his batteries. Nonetheless, God rests. God knows that we need this day.

But we often don’t think of the Sabbath as a gift. We are afraid if we take a day to stop, our performance will suffer. We will get behind, disappoint someone, lose ground to someone else. The act of stopping work one day each week is a profound act of trust. We trust God knows us and our needs better than we do. We trust our performance and our work outcomes to God’s grace and mercy.

Are you willing to trust God for the gift of unproductive time one day each week?

Topics: Christian Life, Discipleship, Rest and Leisure, Work and the Bible

About the Author

Denise is the inaugural Hudson T. Harrison Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship at Wheaton College. Previously she was professor of management at Seattle Pacific University. She earned a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from the University of Washington. Her scholarly interests include meaningful work, Sabbath, leadership, gender, and motivation. Denise is the co-Principal Investigator on a $1.5M research project funded by the Lilly Endowment examining how Christians in the United States understand and engage their faith at work.