Monday, September 1, 2008

laborless day

“Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest; you shall do no work.” – Lev 23:3

The last few days, we’ve been climbing the mountain with Jesus. Today we take a brief detour and contemplate the spiritual practice of “rest.” After all, today is “Labor Day” – the one day in the year that Congress has set aside as a “day off for the working citizens.” When Labor Day rolls around, even workaholics take picnics, go to barbeques, watch fireworks, go skiing, or just spend time with their family. 364 days out of the year they work, work, and then do a little more work. But Labor Day is their day of rest – on this day, no work is done.

And for Labor Day I am grateful, because our world is full of people who don’t know how to rest (laziness is a different phenomenon). Our culture may assume that rest is bad. But rest is good – and that’s why God gave Israel the Sabbath Day. For Israel, “Labor Day” was a weekly celebration.

I think a lot of Christians are confused about the spirit of the Sabbath. As commandment #4, the Sabbath made God’s “top ten list” – and so it’s pretty important. And this is the case for two primary reasons. First, God is the Creator – which means that we are not. Second, God is the Savior – which means that we are not.

First, God is the Creator. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it” (Ex 20:11). In essence, God tells Israel to rest because God is ultimately responsible for everything Israel works for. No matter how hard Israel worked, they still looked to God “to give them their food in due season” (Ps 104:27). God is the Creator. And no matter how hard we work, all that we have, and all that we are, is a gift from the God who creates and the God who provides. Whenever we rest, we remember Who is actually in charge.

Second, God is the Savior. “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath Day” (Deut 5:15). God told Israel to rest because He alone saved them from Egyptian slavery. And God’s salvation was an unmerited gift. Israel didn’t do anything to earn their salvation. God chose Israel. Israel didn’t choose God. And God’s free gift of salvation gave Israel the freedom to rest and to enjoy their “saved” existence as God’s “saved” people.

It’s easy in our world to believe that we are the Creator, i.e., that we are in charge and that the fate of the world ultimately depends on us. It doesn’t. Not only did God create the heavens and the earth, He’s also creating a new heavens and a new earth. The One through whom the heavens and the earth were made is still “making all things new” (Rev 21:5). We don’t have to make all things new. God is doing that. And so we have the freedom to rest.

It’s even easier in our world to believe that we are the Savior, i.e., that we can bring health and wholeness and restoration to ourselves. We can’t. No matter how hard we work, or how good we are, we can never save ourselves. And this is good news, for “we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world” (1 Jn 4:14).

Enjoy not working today. Be labor-less. Rejoice. You’re not the Creator. You’re not the Savior. And neither am I. Thanks be to God.

FOR TODAY: Celebrate Labor Day. And don’t wait 364 days to celebrate it again.

1 comment:

CandN said...

Thanks for that post, John. It was great to read it this afternoon (although I worked this morning... should have checked a few hours ago) ;)