From a Lifestyle of Compulsive Work to a Rhythm of Work and Rest
Learning to trust God for our provision is an ongoing challenge, particularly if we are prone to compulsive work habits. Gordon MacDonald, a U.S. pastor, observes of his culture:
The more we want, the more revenue we must produce to get it. The more revenue we must produce, the longer and harder we have to work. So we build larger homes, buy more cars, take on added financial burdens and then find ourselves having to work harder to pay for it all. More work, less rest.
But compulsive work habits are not limited to those who struggle with affluent culture. They are also the temptation of those who struggle to simply provide the basic necessities for themselves and their families.
Either way, the biblical practice of Sabbath is important for maintaining a Godly perspective on provision and wealth. For the people of Israel, the weekly Sabbath (ceasing from work) was part of their covenantal responsibility—a day to re-centre on God, and to celebrate his love for them. It was a gift from God to keep his people liberated from the grinding toil described in Genesis 3. It was a kindness, an example of God’s care.
The Sabbath rest is a regular repudiation of the covetousness for more. It is a statement to ourselves that there are other things in life besides producing and consuming. And that there is more to our identity than what we do or what we produce. We are not the sum total of our bank accounts, nor of the work or responsibilities we carry.
The Sabbath rest comes down to an act of trust. To observe it, we must dare to trust God to provide for our needs, rather than working all-out to provide for them ourselves. This is a hard lesson to learn, and it usually takes trial and error for us to really get it, as Israel discovered when depending on God’s provision of manna in the desert (Exodus 16:1-36). And it is a reminder that ultimately life depends not on our hard graft, but on God’s provision and grace. This is a challenge—both for those who struggle with the prospect of not having enough and for those who struggle with the peril of not recognizing what is enough.
See our article Balancing Rhythms of Rest and Work: Overview for an in-depth discussion of this topic.
Gordon MacDonald, “Rest Stops” in [email protected] Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4.