Lives Rooted in Rest.

“Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath.’” (Mark 2:27)

How are you judged? 

By what metrics do you feel judged?

If we were brainstorming together, I’m sure we could fill a whole whiteboard with our answers. Grades and evaluations. Publications. Committees. The number of unread messages in our inboxes. The cleanliness of our offices and our homes. The hours we overwork. The size of our waistlines. The state of our relationships. Bank accounts. Social media followers. Tasks checked off our to-do lists.

We compare ourselves to our coworkers; we compare ourselves to our heroes; we compare ourselves to who we think we ought to be. 

Hold all that in mind as you read the following passage from the 10 Commandments:

“Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).

I don’t know about you, but when I read “you shall not do any work” – a little bit of panic rises in me. Not do any work? But how will I get everything done? That feels lazy. That feels unaffordable.

And yet God gives us rest as a command – as one of the Big 10 Commandments. This is not an arbitrary, “because God says so” kind of command – it is for us. It is a divine gift meant to undo the power of all that claims to judge our worth, meant to break the chains that bind us to our busy-ness. Just look:

  • The Sabbath is explicitly connected to God freeing the Israelites from slavery. It is a reminder that God did not create us to be slaves; God did not create us to be workers; God did not create us to be a means of production. In fact, God has saved us from such a fate – and more than once.
  • God directly says that this day of rest is meant for all people, regardless of class or status or age. Supervisor and employee; rich and poor; the leisure class and the overworked – everyone is commanded to rest. First, this has the power to weaken our compulsion to compare ourselves to others; it’s a reminder that we are all equal in God’s eyes, and we are all equally valued by God. Second, it is a reminder that rest is not something we earn or deserve. Rest is a baseline part of our lives. We’re supposed to just do it – even when it means setting aside work that is still left to do.
  • Finally, the call to stop and rest serves as a reminder that we are not God. The world won’t fall apart without our work. We are not all-powerful; we were not made for constant productivity. We have needs and we have limits. And, in fact, even God rested (see both the story of Creation – Gen. 2:2-3 – and Jesus’s consistent slipping away to be by himself, pray, and sleep – e.g. Luke 5:15-16.)

How are we judged by God? The Sabbath commandment reminds us: we are not judged by any of our normal, worldly metrics. 

In fact, it might be better to speak in terms of what God wills for us, what God desires for us. And among the many beautiful answers to that question is this: God wills for us to live lives that are rooted in rest.  A holy, blessed rest that reminds us that we are not what we do; we are not how we look compared to others; and we are definitely not God. We are God’s treasured creations, with our own needs and desires and abilities and callings – “with bodies and minds and hearts that need tending, dependent on the love and care of a creator who is ready to meet us when we stop moving long enough to be met.”

“‘Be still, and know that I am God!

I am exalted among the nations,

I am exalted in the earth.’

The Lord of hosts is with us;

The God of Jacob is our refuge.” (Psalm 46:10-11)

– Pastor Kate

Rev. Katherine Museus and Rev. James A. Wetzstein serve as university pastors at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University and take turns writing weekly devotions.

August 30, 2023