For many Christians, their understanding of the Sabbath is limited to it being “a day of rest.” This is really unfortunate because, though it is certainly a day of rest, it is so much more than that. Partially this misunderstanding is because by ‘rest’ most of us mean a day of relaxation and leisure. But biblically speaking, Sabbath is much more than mere relaxation and leisure.
Sabbath is a weekly reminder that we are not what we do, a weekly reminder to us that we are created by God (see the first Sabbath in Genesis 1!) and that our value is in that reality, not in the reality of a 40 hr. work week or in what we produce. Our value is not in what we do “for a living” (as if “living” is encapsulated in a large 401k!). Our value is not in the amount of money we make. Our value is not in our contributions to society. Our value is solely and completely found in the fact that we are created in God’s image!
The weekly Sabbath is a reminder, in the midst of a hectic work week filled with schedules, deadlines, bills to pay, food to be put on the table, and chores to be finished that these things ultimately do not give us our identity. Sabbath is a weekly ritual that reminds us to just “be” who we are in God instead of being consumed with what others want us to “do.”
Sabbath is not about having one more thing to do. Sabbath is about finding our identity in the One who created us to rest in Him, not in our toils and labors. Sabbath is about seeing our own worth within the larger story of the God who created and redeemed us, not in the myth of a big paycheck or loaded billfold. Sabbath reminds me that my toils mean nothing, but my residing and abiding in God mean everything!
You see, when Christians find their identity primarily in what they do, then it is easy from there to hold contempt in our hearts for those who don’t “do” as much…those who are unemployed, those who are disabled, those on welfare, or stay-at-home moms (or dads). This leads to pride and arrogance because it assumes that “because I work I am more valuable to society and God than that person who doesn’t.”
But, you see, God does not see it that way. He does not find the most value in those who do the most for Him or for the nations. God finds the most value in the one who sits at His feet and abides, rests, and dwells with Him. Sure, this will produce “doing,” but it would be a mistake to assume that our value is attached to doing.
Sabbath is much more than about leisure. It’s much more than about attending worship services. It is much more than pot-lucks and Blue Laws. Sabbath is about resting in the God who created and redeemed us. It is about ceasing our labor for a single day each week to remind ourselves that our identity is not in the work week, but in the wonderful God who became incarnate in Jesus and now indwells us by His Spirit.