In the last post I wrote about how keeping the Sabbath dethrones the god of work. In this post we will look at how keeping the Sabbath is a practical demonstration of our trust in God.
Keeping the Sabbath requires faith (trust) because it forces us to ask the question, “Will God provide?” In the agrarian society that the Bible was written in this would have been an even more critical question than it is in our industrialised society. For the farmer so much is dependent upon what the weather is doing. This is why modern farmers get the harvest in when they can – if the harvest is ready and the weather is good they will have the combines working 24/7. The reason they do this is that if the weather changes they may not be able to get the crop in, and it will be ruined. For an Israelite whose very survival depended on getting the harvest in taking a Sabbath would have been a supreme test of faith. The choice would have been very stark – trust YHWH and rest today, believing the harvest will be ok tomorrow (risking starvation if YHWH doesn’t come through); or not trust YHWH and get the crops in today.
In our society, where not so many of us are farmers, the choice is more likely to be: “I have to go into the office today… or trust God.”
One of the reasons why this test of faith is important is that Sabbath is also a matter of social justice. The prophets often equated constant economic activity with social injustice (E.g., Amos 8:4-6). Forcing others (or yourself) to work seven days a week is unjust.
We can dismiss this prophetic concern as legalism and miss out on grace. We can say, “As a Christian I’m free to work seven days a week” and miss the fact that as a Christian you are free not to work seven days a week. But choosing not to might cost you!
Sabbath keeping does make faith very simple, very black and white. Do you trust God?!
I first learnt this lesson as a student. I had been a poor studier while at school – undisciplined and largely unmotivated – and as a result never did quite so well academically as I should have done. Once I got to university it would have been easy to carry these poor habits on. After all, that is the typical student pattern – leave things to the last minute, then be forced to work the nightshift, cramming six months worth of study into a couple of weeks frantic activity, sustained by constant coffee and loud music. Instead of doing this I made a commitment to myself to work a ‘proper’ week. Hard, concentrated effort, 9-5, Monday to Friday, and to then always take Sunday (and normally Saturday too) off. This strategy paid off – I was more engaged and more successful academically than I had ever been before. This was a good habit to learn.
Taking this step of faith is also helpful in that it reminds us of our dependence on others. If we work every day of the week we quickly get into the self-deception of thinking that everyone else is depending upon us for everything and that if we stop working the universe will implode. One day a week it is good to stop, and be reminded that if it wasn’t for the work of other people we would be living under the stars and eating grass for our dinner. And this in turn helps strengthen our faith in the God who is the ultimate source of our every provision.
Next time we’ll see how keeping the Sabbath slays the god of money.
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