22 April 2018

What we have lost by ignoring the third commandment

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. 
~ Exodus 20:8

[Excerpts from an article by by Kion You]

Efficiency and productivity are concepts that have reached so far out of the weekly 9-to-5 that they have become normalized standards in everything we do. In her article Improving Ourselves to Death, Alexandra Schwartz writes, “We must now chart our progress, count our steps, log our sleep rhythms, tweak our diets, record our negative thoughts, analyze the data, re-calibrate, and then repeat.”

This is misguided and harmful to engage in, but it’s also almost impossible to avoid. The pace of life grows faster and faster by the day, so we constantly try to upgrade and compete. This doesn't only apply to those in corporate environments, but even to those in ministry or social activism.

Bishop Robert Barron, in And Now I See, writes that at the heart of the matter lies our disobedience to God’s intended rhythm for our lives, a rhythm that requires a full, unmitigated day of spiritual rest after every six days of work. Just as God rested on the seventh day after creating the earth, God commanded humans to do the same, understanding how little we know about our limits.

There is a God-created rhythm in our lives that we must obey. 
God knows it's the only way we can create a notion of self - centered not on us - but on God.

Old Testament prophets continually reminded Israelites that the key to prosperity was living as God’s ordained people, and the key to that was to observe the Sabbath. “Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (Ezekiel 20:12). “Listen to me, declares the Lord, and keep the Sabbath day holy. Do no work on it.” (Jeremiah 17:24).

Jesus states in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” He frequently healed people on the Sabbath, saying “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:12).

Practicing the Sabbath has been described as a “protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.” It is a command that we take an entire day off from not only physically working, but from the work-oriented mindset as well.

In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Pastor Peter Scazzero offers an immense wealth of knowledge that can be used to help Christians practice the Sabbath. He writes, “On Sabbath, I embrace my limits. God is God. He is indispensable. I am his creature. The world continues working fine when I stop.” We may feel that we'll fail God if we don't constantly pursue His work, but Scazzero constantly emphasizes understanding our limits, and working within them.

The insight, wisdom, and intimacy with God and others that we can achieve on the Sabbath
is unparalleled when compared to the productivity we could achieve by working that extra day.

Scazzero likens the Sabbath to a snow day, in which all pressures and obligations are lifted, and all we can do is actively, yet restfully ponder the love of God. The Sabbath, to Scazzero, is simply doing “whatever delights and replenishes you.” He acknowledges that in our contemporary society it's an incredibly far-fetched idea, and affirms it will be difficult. We must reorganize our weeks to take a Sabbath off.

To allow ourself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns,
to surrender to too many demands, to commit ourself to too many projects,
to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence.
The frenzy of our activity destroys our inner capacity for peace
and the fruitfulness of our work.
~ Thomas Merton,Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Thus, it is critical that we devote an entire day dedicated to resting and dwelling in God’s grace, not feeling the urge to constantly DO. If Christians began acting toward this calling to Sabbath, the work that we do, will undoubtedly begin to change radically for God’s glory.

article by Kion You, journalist at Brown University

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