Sabbath Rest and Six-Day Work

Will Penner

When I was a high school freshman, I learned Newton’s laws of motion. Newton’s first law states that an object in motion stays in motion until something makes it stop and that an object at rest stays at rest unless something makes it move.


devozine Chillin2 FTR TS 87172655I wasn’t all that good at science, but I believe Newton’s law tends to hold true for human beings as well as objects. When I have lots I need to do, I work like a horse to get it all done, sometimes to the detriment of my health and my relationships. But when I don’t have much to do, I often neglect the little that needs to get done.

I’ve seen my children help a neighbor move, study for AP tests, work toward Tae Kwon Do belt advancement, help wash the dinner dishes, and knock out a research paper all in the same day—without stopping until we make them go to bed. I’ve seen the same kids do nothing more in a day than click the remote, go to the bathroom, and refill their soft drink cups. If we ask them to do a chore, you’d think we were asking them to move a mountain.

Newton’s law isn’t the only one at work in the world. God provides a rhythm that we are meant to follow. We’re not made to work all of the time, but we’re not made to sit around playing video games for days on end either.

A good friend of mine warns those of us with workaholic tendencies that the command to honor the Sabbath is “only two away from murder in the Big Ten.” He believes God is serious about our taking time to rest.

On the other hand, many people forget the first part of the commandment: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Exodus 20:9, NRSV). Most of us whine about going to work or to school five days a week. The people who first heard God’s commands probably worked every day from sun up to sundown. The truth is that God wants us to work hard.

devozine Snuggle TS 78401176The admonition to honor the Sabbath, while partly about resting from work, is also about recognizing God’s importance in our lives. If our day of rest is full of nothing but movies and video games, we often don’t end the day rested; so we’re not rejuvenated and ready to get back to work. The difference comes from engaging in activities that give life and renewal rather than those that simply encourage laziness.

I love a good movie, and I enjoy video games. If I let myself, I’ll spend hours engrossed in them and not get the rest I need. When I honor the Sabbath, I spend time in truly restful endeavors: napping, walking alone, cuddling with my wife or kids. I can tell that I have truly honored the Sabbath when I end the day not only grateful for God’s blessings but also invigorated and ready for work.


devozine Nap TS 77280921


Make a list of activities that make you feel better after you’ve done them. What else could you add to the list? How about reading a novel, rappelling down a cliff face, learning to water ski, or taking a four-hour nap in the middle of the day? Make a point of trying out different ways to honor the Sabbath.

Think about sabbath activities you do during the rest of the week. Are you missing opportunities to be more effective in your work or better prepared for work in the future? Pick one or two ways to change your leisure activities so that you can serve God more fully.

Will Penner is a husband, dad, teacher, speaker, author, editor, and minister. He loves to be lazy but has found that guilt-free laziness, after hard work, is definitely the best kind.

—from devozine (July/August 2012). Copyright © 2012 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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