Sabbath as a license for laziness?

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:1-2)

It feels like there’s been a resurgence of Christians committing to rest in general and Sabbath specifically in recent years. As I wrote about last week, I’m all for this! But my fear is that we’ll swing the proverbial pendulum too far in the other direction, with some Christians taking the Biblical command to rest as a license for laziness.

Thankfully, God hasn’t left us in the dark regarding the ideal balance between work and rest. He shows us in today’s passage where it says he worked six days and rested one. Talk about imbalance! God worked wholeheartedly, and then he commanded us to mimic his rhythm: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:9-10).

This theme of hard work continues through the New Testament with Jesus himself working long hours (see Mark 3:20-21 and John 11:9) and Paul imitating his Savior by working “hard with [his] own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:12). Because, as Paul makes clear in Ephesians 2:8-10, while we have been saved not by works, we have been saved for “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” In other words, part of our response to the gospel is to work. Hard.

Now there’s an important nuance here that’s worth mentioning. Just because the gospel compels us to work hard doesn’t necessarily mean we should all spend six days at the office each week. Why? Because God doesn’t define work the way we often do, as “the thing we are paid to do.” His definition appears to be much broader, so much so that Exodus 20:10 says even animals work. The “work” that we’ll do in six days includes what we do for pay as well as doing laundry, mowing grass, preparing dinner, and doing homework.

But even with that caveat, it’s clear that God created us not primarily for leisure and for rest, but for purpose and life-giving work. Why? Because as Jesus said, when others “see your good works” they will “glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

We should be a people marked by uncommon rest. But we should also be a people marked by uncommon work ethic. Reflect God’s character this week by working hard for his glory and the good of others!


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