As the school year gets ready to start, with me not doing so for the first time in 25 years, I look back nostalgically and think about some of the things I used to do. I loved planning fun activities/projects for kids to do where they would have to learn the techniques they were supposed to use along the way. To me, that made learning more real. It got frustrating for me when students immediately announced that this was “boring.” (I used to take it personally until I started seeing some kids on social media, kids with computers, cell phones, video games, cable TV, post something like “Text me, I’m bored.”) I tried to encourage those students who “knew” that this was going to be boring to try it out because it would be fun. Finally, in exasperation, when all else failed I would look at them menacingly and say something like, “Do it! You’re going to have fun whether you like it or not!” Whereupon we would laugh and the students would reluctantly have a great time.
I think we approach a lot of God’s commands like my students approached my lessons. God tells us to “Do this,” and we roll our eyes and think to ourselves, “Bore–ring.” God tries to show us why His way is best for us and we stare off into the sky, patting our feet waiting for the “lecture” to finish. One of the most important concepts God has designed to make life better is the Sabbath. He commanded a day of rest for His people. Our bodies need rest. We function better with a day of rest. The Pharisees understood this, but they squeezed the enjoyment out of this rest by dictating all sorts of rules and regulations that people needed to obey so that they could keep the Sabbath properly; sort of like a rubric for the Sabbath to put it in words my educator friends could understand. One Sabbath, the disciples of Jesus ran afoul of the rules and there were Pharisees around to call Jesus on His improper teaching. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’” (Luke 6:5)
In making their rubric for the Sabbath, the Pharisees sucked the joy and the purpose out of God’s plan for rest. Their attitude wasn’t “sit back, relax, and enjoy your day of rest.” Their attitude was “You’re going to enjoy this Sabbath whether you like it or not.” If you happened to be hungry on the Sabbath, don’t fix any food. Jesus was admonished for healing on the Sabbath because that was work. The Sabbath police were even stricter than the Grammar police on the internet. The Sabbath rules, instead of inducing rest, created anxiety. People worried so much about following the rules to keep the Sabbath properly, according to the Pharisees, that they didn’t experience the benefits of the Sabbath that God had planned for His people.
Many, but not all Christians, myself included, observe the Lord’s Day (Sunday) as our day of rest. We celebrate the resurrection each Sunday by making that day our day of rest and worship. The concept remains the same: we need a sabbath from the rat race of life. We need a day to pull back where we aren’t focused on trying to get ahead or make a buck. We need that time of relaxation because it is physically impossible to keep going 110% of the time, focused on our goals to succeed. Our bodies need rest. God set that example of resting so that we would see how important it is to rest and recharge. If you are one of those people who is always going 110%, 8 days a week, take a sabbath and see how much more alert you are to do all those things you need to.
Lord, You give rest to Your beloved. Help me to take a day of rest, to recharge my physical batteries and, through worship, my spiritual batteries. Remind me that Your Sabbath was made for me to enjoy life and not meant as a law to produce guilt. Let me rest in You.