Sabbath: March 4, 2018
A lot of us talk about rest and recreation like we like it. A lot. But that doesn’t make us very good at it.
In Exodus 20, the fourth commandment is to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Do all your work in six days, but on the seventh day, rest. How many of us can honestly say that for one whole day a week, we abstain from all work—or from making others work for us, like in restaurants or theaters or golf courses… or even churches?
The fourth commandment tells us that rest isn’t just a kind recommendation from on high. The Lord does not say, “Hey, take care of yourself and take a break every now and then.” Rather, the Lord says, “You shall not do any work.”
Walter Brueggemann points out that the Ten Commandments begin with the Lord saying, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” In Egypt, God’s people were enslaved in overwork. Read Exodus 5: Pharaoh punished these Hebrews strangers in his land by forcing them to make bricks, then by cutting their supply of straw to make bricks, then by demanding that they still produce the same amount of bricks. He didn’t like these foreigners living as well as they had been, so he tried to cover his cruel xenophobia by accusing them of sheer laziness and demanding ceaseless production and economic stimulation.
But according to the fourth commandment, that not the life that God intends for us. God intends a day of Sabbath, a practice of rest, a lifestyle that breaks from the constant economy and honors something much more holy: the abundant life that God offers to each and every one of us. What day a week could you rest from your labors, and let others rest, too?