Rest, But Not Too Much
October 3, 2020 · C.E. Carter
It seems to me that God gave us 6 days to work and 1 day to rest. The usual argument opposing this is that Christ is our true Sabbath and therefore we don’t need to observe the Sabbath as Christians today. Yes and amen, Christ is our true Sabbath; we strive no longer in Him. But if we affirm that God’s 6-1 work/rest split is null and void in the Christian age, what’s the best way to partition our rest among our work? 7 days on, full throttle? 5 days of work and 2 days of rest, with workday evenings filled with 4 hour periods of hardcore Call of Duty and binge watching Season 2 of The Office in one go? What does “rest” even mean?
If you’re a Christian, you should be a Sabbatarian. The Sabbath was made for man, after all. It’s debated what that actually means, and what it means to you will depend on the convictions of your own conscience, but essentially, you should work for six days, and take a break from work on the seventh day, excepting dire extenuating circumstances where you have to work (a.k.a., if your ox falls into a pit on the Sabbath, you should pull it out). What’s “work” and what’s “rest”? Well, if it’s part of your vocation (career, job, research, school, education, or another endeavor) it’s work, and you should rest from it on the Sabbath. If it’s something that recharges you or allows you to recharge in order to do your work better, then it’s rest. I think there’s allowed to be a bit of overlap. On a Tuesday evening, I could read Calvin and call it “researching Calvin’s Institutes” and put it under the category of work. On a Sunday afternoon, I could read Edwards and call it “chillin’ with Edwards”. Most things don’t have this kind of overlap, but some do.
I write this, because it’s very easy to do things which are neither work, nor rest. Scrolling through Instagram is neither work nor rest. It’s just garbage, and you shouldn’t do it for extended periods of time. I would make the same statement about videogames, binge-watching shows on Netflix, and spending time in front of the television. If you balance the different kinds of work that you do, you’ll find that you can work a lot more throughout the week than you think you can, without the need for extended periods of “rest”. Most often, the things that we call rest aren’t intentional moments to recharge and enjoy life, rather, they are just habits. Some habits are more debilitating than others. In keeping with living a life worthy of the Gospel, it is my conviction that I should always be doing some sort of work, whether I’m doing my day job, writing, studying, counseling a friend, training in the gym, or doing necessary household chores. Variety of effort is the key to sustainable effort. The attitude behind “working for the weekend” or “working for retirement” ultimately views work as a great stain on the richness of the human experience; a necessary evil to make ends meet, that would leave the whole human race better off if it didn’t exist. While work in this fallen world is cursed with vanity, work is simultaneously a natural and necessary part of human flourishing, according to God’s created order. Every human being is called to a multifaceted palette of consistent effort throughout their life, by design, and this ought to inform the schedule of our work week. Take some rest, by all means, but not too much.