Sabbath is not just a good idea. It’s in God’s Top Ten.
Sure, there’s a lot of valid debate about how Sabbath works under the New Covenant, but the idea of taking a break from our usual routine for one day out of seven is not just a command, it’s rooted in the way our minds, bodies, and spirits function.
A lot of high-end performers are rediscovering the importance of Sabbath – even if they don’t call it that. A day off is no longer considered a break from their high performance lives, it’s seen as an integral part of it. The rhythm of output followed by input is accepted and promoted as an essential performance-enhancing strategy.
Many heavily driven business leaders now regularly post photos and videos of themselves taking breaks as a way of enforcing the value of downtime. In fact, some leadership gurus are promoting the fact that they spend one-third or more of their days away from work to get greater results, often spending weeks, even months in rest and recovery.
This emphasis on necessary rest is good. For the most part.
Unfortunately, every good idea comes with an unexpected and unseen downside.
Why Sabbath Is Harder Now
While I applaud high performers for taking some much-needed time off, and for promoting it as part of a healthy lifestyle, it’s also important to note that their ability to take multiple weeks away from work is very much tied to the fact that they make enough money and have a large enough staff to do so.
Most people can’t take that many breaks from their usual routine. Babies need to be fed, changed, and snuggled every day. Cows need to be milked. Products need to be packaged. Emergencies happen.
It’s relatively easy for a CEO to change their schedule so they get more time off to reenergize – much easier than it is for the average person who works for them.
But for the average worker, it’s not just harder to take one-third of their days off, it’s harder to take a one-in-seven Sabbath break today than it was even a generation ago.
Here are two reasons why this has happened, followed by several reasons Sabbath is so essential.
1. There’s no “normal” schedule any more
When almost everyone had a similar weekly schedule, Sabbath was easier. Even for non-religious folks, Sunday was a day off because everything but restaurants and emergency services were closed.
If no one else is working, it forces you to take a break, too. But when everything around you is on, there’s no rhythm to follow.
2. It’s harder to unplug
Technology has its downsides, and this is one of them.
For instance, I don’t have an office anymore. I don’t need one. Everything I need for work and communication is with me everywhere I go, which is so convenient. The downside? It’s with me everywhere I go, which is so intrusive. I can’t say “sorry, I couldn’t get back to you quickly, I was away from the office,” so I need new reasons like an auto-response that says “I’m taking time away from work until Tuesday. I’ll get back to you then.”
Years ago, being away from the office and its demands was normal. We didn’t even have to think about it. Today, setting an auto-response for our emails, then honoring it, takes discipline.
Why Sabbath Is More Necessary Than Ever
None of these challenges has decreased our need for Sabbath. We need the one-in-seven break as much as we always have – maybe more than ever. Here’s why.
1. The pace of life requires an intentional break
By every measure, life is faster now than just a decade ago, and exponentially faster than a generation ago. Changes that used to require decades can happen in months, while long-held beliefs and traditions are constantly upended.
The only way to keep grounded when everything around us is moving is to take regular breaks to think, worship, play, and rest.
2. It’s good for us
Our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health require regular downtime. God built rest into the way he made us and into the order of creation.
In Mark 2:27 Jesus told us, “People were not made for the good of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for the good of people.” (CEV)
Note, the first thing God himself did after creating everything was to rest. Not because he needed it, but because we needed the example of it.
3. It sets an example for others
Just as God set an example of Sabbath rest for us when he took a sabbath rest, we set an example for others when we do it. Especially for church leaders, a life without a Sabbath is a bad example. We can’t expect them to follow God’s commands in this if we’re unwilling to do so ourselves.
4. God is honored by it
Now, we come back to where this article started.
This is the biggest reason of all. Even if we didn’t understand the value of Sabbath for ourselves, God has told us to do this. Not as a suggestion, an option, or a life-management hack, but as one of the Ten Commandments.
In John 14:15, Jesus told us “If you love me, keep my commands.” (NIV)
When we keep a Sabbath rest, we don’t just make our lives better, we show Jesus how much we love him.
(For more on the importance of Sabbath as a way of being obedient to God, check out my follow-up article, Why It’s A Bad Idea To Use Sabbath As A Time Management Tool.)
(Photo by Giuseppi Milo | Flickr)