In 1899, Thorstein Vebler wrote a book called, The Theory of the the Leisure Class. In it he stated that the richer one gets the more likely they were to work less and show off one’s leisure time…Things have changed, and man, have they changed!
One of the Grinches that can steal our Christmas…in fact, it is stealing our lives away from us for most of the year…is the grinch of busyness, activity, and stress.
In our culture, the true sign that you are worthwhile, that you matter, that you are someone to be respected is that you work harder and longer and have more to do than anyone else. We value people who put in long hours at work…and when asked how we are doing, a good answer that will get you either respect or at the very least a nod of agreement is to say, “Oh man, things are busy!”
In a recent study, Silvia Bellezza presented people with the social media updates of various people…some speaking of busyness and lots to do and other talking about the leisure activities and things they were doing for fun. She asked participants to rate people based on whether they believed the person had a higher or lower status…people consistently rated the busier people as being wealthier and higher status than those who talked about resting and having fun.
Other stats reveal our problem as well…
In 2014 41% of American workers let vacation days go to waste. Two years later, in 2016, Americans set a record with the number of vacation days they let go to waste. And in May of this year, it was reported that the average American doesn’t even use half of their vacation time.
And yet we see someone enjoying some leisure time, and think they are either lazy, or “it must be nice to not have to be so busy.”
How do we get to a place where rest is not appreciated?
In many ways, Christians have caused this problem. Not that we created the problem of working too much, but we sanctified it. It made it a religious principle. We created a Theology of Work using verses like
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
If we are good Christians we will work hard because our real Boss is God and not the schmuck with the title of manager! So we work hard. It became known as the Protestant Work Ethic. Work hard. Represent God well by how hard you work. That hard work was rewarded with better pay…and we liked the pay so we worked harder.
So Christians and religion have played a role here…but
We also make work and busyness a status symbol… We gain our identity from the work or the busyness. Ask someone to tell you about themselves, and one of the first things they do is tell you what they do for a living. We take our value from it; especially men. This is why retirement is so difficult for so many people…we have to redefine ourselves in light not working.
But it isn’t just identity symbolizes to others around us that we are important. We are busy, we are in demand…we are needed. And it is nice to be needed.
But that isn’t the only reason, is it?
We have to work constantly…because the lifestyle we have chosen forces us to do so. We have bills to pay, things to pay for, things we want, things we “need”. There are things we have to pay for and things required of us…but far more often we are busy because we have chosen a lifestyle that force us to work more in order to afford the things.
And yet, God did not create us to be this busy. That isn’t God’s design for us. That’s not how our bodies were created to work. In fact, without proper rest and recovery…our ability to achieve deteriorates. We become less productive the more we work. The busier we are the more we miss what is really important around us.
One of the most interesting exercise studies I read talked about the benefit of exercising 3 days a week. If you exercise 3 days a week that is the bare minimum for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But when you more to 4 days a week, the benefits go up substantially. You make gains and progress in your physical fitness and ability. At 5 days of exercise you see minimal improvement over those who do 4, but there is improvements. But after that exercise benefits become nonexistent and even detrimental.
Our bodies, our minds, our spirits were not made to live without rest.
And that is why God calls us to live differently…God has gifted us something very special.
Sabbath is God’s gift to us.
For about 400 years, the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. And I don’t what the benefits were like of being in slavery to the most powerful nation of the time, but I’m sure there wasn’t much PTO available.
So the Israelites worked every single day as slaves in Egypt.
And after God freed them slavery, he gave them the gift of the Sabbath.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
They had every excuse in the book available to them. They had been working every day of their lives so far…they were used to working this hard. They were making their way to a promised land that was going to require a tremendous amount of work to get things right. Not to mention they were a farming/agrarian society so there was always something to be done…
And yet, God commanded them to keep a Sabbath day set apart where they didn’t work.
If you come from a legalistic background, “commands” are not always something we appreciate. But, sometimes I think God commands things of us because we wouldn’t do it on our own, and he knows what’s best for us.
I remember as a kid protesting against some of the rules my mom had despite how much claimed to know what was best for me! Then awhile back I had one of the revelations. One of the things my mom had a rule against was me jumping ramps with my bike. I would build these ramps out of scrap stuff found around the neighborhood and jump them. I couldn’t understand what the problem was…until a few years ago when I pulled up to my house and some of the neighbor kids had built a ramp in the street. It was a series of progressively smaller rocks with this very wide board balanced on top of it. In that moment, I remember that was exactly like the ramps I would build…not safe at all. My mom, in that moment, actually knew what was best for me despite all my very logical reasons as to why she was wrong…she was keeping me from my dreams of being a BMX champion, staring on the X Games…it was her fault my childhood was being ruined.
But we are like that…some times we need someone, who actually knows things better than us to step in.
Have you ever notice how people can’t seem to get things together health-wise until they have a cardiac or medical event that “forces” them to make healthier choices? Then they magically they are able to pull it all together.
Remember when you didn’t have time to slow down, you were too busy, things would fall apart without you…then you got sick and the world went on just fine. People managed. Some of them even stepped up.
God will often require things of us, not because it is necessarily a matter of sin vs not-sin, but because He loves us deeply. Because he really does know what is best for us, and because He wants us to experience the benefit of it.
God created a challenging framework for us. Every 7th day the Israelites were to rest. Every 7th year they were to let the land rest. Every 7th of 7 year cycles they were to celebrate the Year of Jubilee and free their slaves, return property to the original owners who had sold it to make ends meet, and forgive debts.
The Israelites were pretty good at celebrating the Sabbath, they were not so good at giving the land the 7th year sabbath, and there is no record of them ever celebrating a year of Jubilee.
We celebrate Christmas as joyous, gift giving time…and if we aren’t careful, we forget that Jesus came as an infant to bring us the greatest gift of all.
Luke 4:16-21 says,
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus came proclaiming a Sabbath rest. A rest from all the striving, the toil, the busyness of trying to create a relationship…we are set free…God’s gift is not just a sabbath day, but a sabbath relationship.
Two things happen when someone starts talking about the Sabbath…someone will start talking about how Sabbath is really supposed to be on Saturday because that’s how the Jews celebrated it. That’s true. But Sabbath seems to be a bigger concept than just what day it is celebrated on.
Second, someone will bring up passages like Mark 2:27
27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath…so the logic goes…we can choose to have a sabbath or not have a sabbath…God has left it up to us to decide.
And again, that’s true. I don’t think Sabbath keeping is necessarily a sin issue. But that doesn’t make it isn’t something God has designed for us to benefit from in powerful ways. I have also noticed that when we fail to keep a Sabbath…when we fail to value rest and time spent worshipping God…we begin to fail in body, mind, and spirit.
Our bodies break down.
Our minds become flooded.
Our spirits become broken and weak.
Stress levels rise, and we become less able to handle
And all of this builds because we are simply not good at resting, at resisting a life of busyness…we are not good Sabbath keepers.
I’m not a good Sabbath keeper. And yet the longer I live, the more I understand its necessity and its call. Because while keeping the Sabbath might not be an issue of sin…my failure to keep the Sabbath has revealed a ton of sinfulness in my life…my failure to trust God to supply if I take that day off…my failure to gain my identity from God because I gain my identity from what I do…my failure to care only for what God thinks of me and not have others think I’m lazy…my failure to live within my means because more work means more money…the list goes on.
Keeping the Sabbath is might not be a sin issue, but our failure to keep it reveals a world of sinfulness in need of God’s forgiveness and healing.
Christmas lights competition last night on TV. Millions of lights. one family had more than 1,000 inflatables. They had a train, like 5,000 Santa Clauses, Reindeer. Snowmen. Frozen characters. Alll these lights and figurines. In the middle of all this Christmas Chaos was one Jesus figure and a manger buried in the middle…and as they gave the host the tour they pointed out that they put Jesus there so everyone would know that He is the reason for the season.
It is so easy clutter up the rest of our lives with busyness, stress, and chaos, and have a just a little bit of Jesus…and convince ourselves that He at the center of our lives. But if you looked at our schedules, checkbooks, actions, and attitudes…we would look no different from anyone else.
The last book of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy, is said to be the final speech given by Moses when just before he went into the wilderness to die. He reminds the Israelites where they have been, and challenges them not to fall away from God as they enter the Promised Land.
He repeats a lot of the things we see throughout Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. He hits the high points…He definitely covers the 10 Commandments, but he changes some wording…
“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.
He changes the first word from Remember…meaning to set it aside…to Observe meaning to guard, protect, keep watch over, preserve…
It may be a simple, word change. He may have simply forgotten which word he used. It may be a later scribe wrote down the wrong word. But I don’t think it is there by accident. Moving from telling them to remember and celebrate a day to telling them to Guard it is a significant statement…and one we need to hear today.
There are many things in our lives, like taking a true Sabbath, that we need to guard. Not because we commanded to celebrate it, but because our Heavenly Father, who loves us beyond the love we have for ourselves…our Heavenly Father knows we need this time, but if we do not guard against all the pressures of time, and family, and obligation, and all the things we think we have to do…we will quickly do other things.
In our culture we need this time to step away, to rest, to relax, to stop moving…because
It takes time to develop relationships; relationship with God and relationship with others.
It takes time for our bodies to recuperate and rejuvenate from everything we put it through.
It takes time for our minds to reset.
It takes time for God’s word to soften the hardened soil of our hearts.
It takes time to discern God’s will and activity around us so we can follow it.
It takes time away from the noise and hustle and busyness of our world to truly reflect the character of our Lord and Savior…to really live out our humanity the way God intended.
At the end of the service
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.