I recently recalled a conversation that I had a few years back when I lived in Chicago with a gentleman who was being considered as our new church pastor. It was immediately clear to me that he was more than capable (and has turned out to be a fantastic pastor) and so I really only had one question for him – “How are you at keeping the Sabbath?” He paused, chuckled and said, “Did someone from my current church tell you to ask me that?”
No one had to tell me to ask that. I had spent a couple of years in seminary and while I was there I learned that keeping the Sabbath holy is the one commandment that is kept just as poorly by many in ministry as those in other professions. Today, the demands of increased global competition in the corporate sector and the prevelence of mobile technology has made it even more difficult for all of us to take a break for a day. In fact, if you missed it there was recently a study from the UK about the harmful impacts of those that are addicted (literally) to mobile technologies. It was a sobering article.
Now before my wife has a chance to comment about my own Blackberry addiction (I’ll give it a check if I get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night), I should note that I’ve had to become purposeful about keeping the Sabbath holy. I need to spend some time thinking on Friday or Saturday morning to how I’ll get my personal and work tasks done before Sunday in order to keep it free from work. But I can vouch for this -it’s worth it.
The reason I asked our new pastor that question is that I’ve seen in my own life the effects of not resting – stress, being crabby with family and co-workers, eating poorly, and decreased resistance to all kinds of other temptations. We forget sometimes that God’s commandments not only honor him but they benefit us. The Sabbath is a really simple concept – don’t work on one day of the week (which ever day works for you – it doesn’t have to be Sunday). We’re not meant to make this a legalistic thing (per Jesus in Mark 2), but as author Lynn Babb put it, “It’s a day where you focus on being, rather than being productive.” It’s a time to consider our blessings, take stock of our lives, and to let the Lord replenish us.
It can be easy to ignore God’s fourth commandment, but he saw fit to put it up there with not cheating on our spouses or worshiping false gods. It isn’t just a commandment; it’s a glimpse into the nature of how God made us. We need a Sabbath. Without it, we risk moving through life too quickly without a chance to make the most of it or fully experience it. If you find yourself dragging a little this morning because you didn’t get much of a break yesterday, it’s not too early to begin considering this coming Sunday.
If you’d like some practical tips on how to get started, here’s a great article from Crosswalk.