In his book Working the Angles, Eugene Peterson points out the following:
The Deuteronomy reason for Sabbath-keeping is that our ancestors in Egypt went four hundred years without a vacation (Deuteronomy 5:15). Never a day off. The consequence: they were no longer considered persons but slaves. Hands. Work units. Not persons created in the image of God but equipment for making bricks and building pyramids.
Keeping the Sabbath was therefore both blessing and sign. (See Deuteronomy 5: 12-15.) The people of God kept one day in seven free of their usual productive activity because they needed it. The fact that they could keep it was also a sign that they were no longer slaves. They were no longer under the cruel rule of Pharaoh and Egypt. They were now free, free under God.
As a people under the care of a loving God, they could afford to work when it was time to work, rest when it was time to rest. Sabbath-keeping was an eloquent statement of their status as God’s people and the reality of the sovereign, benevolent nature of God.
When I look at the frenzied hectic lifestyles of most Christians today, we seem to resemble slaves more than free people. We may no longer be in bondage to Pharaoh, but we are still slaves, slaves to fear, pride, greed, materialism, consumerism, etc. Like those who do not know God, we too push ourselves to work long hours, doing with as little rest as possible.
Christians in vocational ministry are no different. In fact because they are conscious that they are doing “God’s work” they are even less inclined to keep the divine work-Sabbath rhythm. As a result many of our best people burn out or become susceptible to all sorts of spiritual and emotional collapse.
I invite you to attend my webinar on Wednesday, April 22, at 8 a.m. CST, when we will address this problem head on–first by acknowledging the frantic pace of modern life, and then by looking at some key biblical and practical ways we can structure our lives so that we can continue to work hard healthily.
Register online now for MAI’s free webinar with Pastor Soo-Inn Tan, “Time Management, Life Balance, and Avoiding Burnout”
Soo-Inn Tan of Malaysia/Singapore is a founding director of Graceworks, a training and publishing consultancy committed to promoting spiritual friendship in church and society. Soo-Inn is committed to connecting the Word of God to the struggles of daily life through teaching, mentoring and writing.