When God created us, He built work into the very core of our being and purpose: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15, ESV)

But when God laid out the principles of His law for His people, He also indicated that we are made to rest:

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12–15, ESV)

In other words, the Scriptures give a beautiful picture of a life that includes both work and rest.  Mankind was not made to fritter away our days idly – work is a blessing, not a curse.  Neither, though, were we made to work continually without rest.  Instead, we were made to have a rhythm of work and rest, a dance of labor and recharge.

How rarely we do so, however!  There have been countless articles about the modern encroachment of work on what was previously family time and leisure, about the ubiquity of email and the curse of being able to check it on your phone – any day, any hour.  Now all time is work time, at least potentially, especially since we feel continually behind.

It seems that our modern life has created a tyranny of work.  But that tyranny of work has also warped our idea of rest.  Now we dream about having no work to do.  But a life without work was never the original vision of Genesis 2, nor would it ultimately be fulfilling.  So our overwork has now warped both our understanding of work and our understanding of rest.

A biblical rest is not a passive, lazy thing, though it is a ceasing of labor in the sense of the other six days of the week.  Instead, a biblical rest is a stopping of labor for the sake of worship and of recharge, an acknowledgment that it is, ultimately, not our labor that feeds us, but the Lord.

 

Where are my ideas of both work and rest twisted in unbiblical ways?

An ordained minister and the first professor of Reformed Theological Seminary NYC in Manhattan, Bill earned a Ph.D. in Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at The Catholic University of America. He completed his M.Div. at RTS Orlando and serves as a pastor at McLean Presbyterian Church.

Meet Rev. Dr. Bill Fullilove