By Allen White
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Matthew 12:1-14
Nowadays, it seems we have the opposite Sabbath issue. What do we not do on the Sabbath? The religious leaders were concerned about Jesus and His disciples performing “work” on the Sabbath by picking a handful of grain or healing a person. Today, we barely know what a Sabbath even is.
There’s not a day of the week that we can’t work, shop or eat in a restaurant. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not ready to head back to the days of the blue laws where you couldn’t do anything on a Sunday. I’m all in favor of the 24 hour Wal-mart. I’ve been there at 2 am.
In Jesus’ day, the Sabbath was lost in a labyrinth of rules. The one day reserved for relaxation, recreation and relationship became a stressed-out mess of worry over whether a law was being broken. Today, we have the opposite problem.
Think about this – keeping the Sabbath is the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11). Out of the Ten Commandments, more verses are devoted to Sabbath-keeping than to any of the other nine. The importance of a Sabbath ranks right up there with murder, adultery, theft and false testimony. The Sabbath is far more important than just an hour on Sunday.
We were created for a six day work week. If after working hard at creating the world over six days, God needed a day off. Are we better than God that we can work 24/7 with no repercussions?
Now, it’s one thing to have a day off from your job. It’s another thing to take a break from the pace of life in order to reconnect with your family and refresh yourself. Your Sabbath might involve a family outing. Your Sabbath might be a lazy day, where you don’t do much of anything. Your Sabbath might be gathering around the family TV and watching football together. Your Sabbath might be taking the battery out of your cell phone.
When do you give yourself some down time? If you can’t do a whole day, then start with half a day. When do you put your focus on your family? When do you get down on the floor and play with your kids? When do you sit on the porch and hold your spouse’s hand for no good reason at all, except that you love them?
We were made to work hard for six days – work, chores, household projects, errands. And, we were made for one day of rest. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). The Sabbath isn’t one more set of rules to follow. A Sabbath rest is God’s gift to us. It’s how we were designed.
As Clayton King recently said, “Refusing to work is laziness. Refusing to rest is disobedience.” What’s the first step you can take toward giving yourself a God-honoring break?
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