Today was a much needed day of rest. After a late request to a coworker, my usual Sunday night closing shift was covered. You see I’ve had the knack of getting into various streaks of days without rest – without a day off – and I don’t even realize it. It wasn’t until Friday that I had realized I had gone three weeks in a row since my last day off. Needless to say, I was exhausted after last night.
“Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist,” – Proverbs 23:4
I used to think this Proverb was in reference to the notion of gaining as much money as one can. I used to think of the rich man in Mark 10:17-22; someone who had kept every rule ever given to him, but also kept every dime given to him. In this day spent watching episodes of “How I Met Your Mother,” eating a delicious burrito from Mucho Gusto with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, and watching one of my favorite movies (Finding Forrester), I now realize this Proverb wasn’t talking about getting rich. It is simply talking about Sabbath.
Jesus says that man was not made for the Sabbath, but rather the other way around (Mark 2:27). In His day He taught not to make certain days more holy than others and we’ve sort of followed His lead as a Christian culture. But what I’ve gotten into the bad habit of doing is overlooking the positive thing Jesus says about the Sabbath.
In saying that the Sabbath was made for man, He’s saying that it was God’s intention for His creation to take a rest from his/her work. Oregon law states that for every shift of six hours or more, an employee is required to take a half hour unpaid break for physical rest. With God’s commandment of a Sabbath, however, it’s intended for much more than physical rest; He wants our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls to rest.
Back in my junior year of high school, I was taking a weights class. It was the only one I ever took in high school, but I learned quite a bit from it. For starters, I learned that it isn’t good to work out the same muscle group day after day after day. It’s in fact better to alternate between each muscle group day to day. One day work your upper body and then the next work your lower body. And why was that? In order for our muscles to grow in strength and size, rest – not more exercise – is required. I believe it’s the same for our souls.
Work is forever a part of life. And some of us work far more than others (parents, I hear, work every single day – but I think it’s just a theory…), but no matter who you are or what you do, you work to some degree each day. It’s good for us – healthy, even. But, like taking any one thing too far, we’re not supposed to fill our schedules with jobs and extra hours here and there to make the extra buck. We need to rest. We need days off.
I have often heard the age-old cliché “time is money.” My generation has probably heard this less than the generation before us, but we’ve heard it. And many of us have believed it even if we didn’t consciously acknowledge that belief. It’s used to generate strong work ethics, but there’s a problem: It’s a lie.
Long lives aren’t dependent upon large bank accounts; they’re dependent upon a large faith – even as large as a mustard seed. Food, clothes, housing – you name it; if you need it, God will provide. Money, though useful in the social system we’re in, is not God. It won’t buy you a faithful spouse, a ticket into heaven, or especially a new change in your character. It is simply a means to an end. I use it to buy food, but I can also grow my own. I use it to pay for gas, but I could also ride my bike. And it helps pay for a roof over my head, but who says I wouldn’t be sheltered apart from a lease?
My only point is exactly as the Proverb teaches: We must be discerning enough to say “no” every now and then to those extra hours. We must be wise enough to know that no matter where we are in life, we will always be working and therefore always in need of rest. It helps our muscles, our work ethic, and our walk with God to keep a healthy balance between our jobs and our days off.