“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27
There’s an old joke – or maybe it’s a fact, not a joke – that no one ever made a death bed confession wishing he’d spent more time at the office. Yet, we live in a culture that glorifies busyness whereby we obtain bragging rights for the hours we spend and the sweat we pour into hard work. We have come to believe that work is the great virtue above all virtues, thus the more time we spend at it and the harder we go about it the more virtuous we are.
At the same time there’s an old folk proverb that claims idleness to be the devil’s workshop. By not keeping ourselves busy, in other words, we put ourselves at risk of doing something we shouldn’t, things that are mischievous or harmful, and get us into trouble.
I have to admit to being guilty of all the above at various times in my life. When I have done things I shouldn’t and gotten into trouble those actions have inevitably hatched in an incubator of idleness. At the other extreme I have immersed myself in work to the extent of losing track of time and awareness of the world around me, and later bragged to others about how long and hard I worked. But then I have been brought back to my senses – thanks mostly to wife’s stern reminders – that there are other things of greater importance than spending more time at the office.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath . . . On it you shall not do any work . . .” (Exodus 20:8-10). Often viewed as arbitrary, impractical and even irrelevant in our high-work ethic Western society this fourth of the Ten Commandments is actually meant to be practical, given to us for our own well-being. Its intention is that we take time to rest from our labors, to pause and enjoy our relationships with others and with God, and reflect on Him and all He has provided; for “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” so that our lives will be filled with abundance – rather than regret for spending too much time at the office.