“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day…You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord…” (Leviticus 23:3, ESV)
There are several ways to relax: Netflix, movies, reading, watching sports, being on the internet, eating out, window shopping, playing an instrument, writing, singing, drawing, dancing, bike riding, gardening, walking the dog…the list goes on and on.
The problem is that we were not designed to be people at rest. “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest.” (Exodus 23:12) But our culture has exalted rest to an art form as well as an idol. Today, technology has advanced so far that we can clip our phones into a headset and virtually tour a city that is halfway across the globe, swim with seals beneath the ocean, or ride a roller coaster on a bright sunny day at an amusement park. No longer do we have to leave the comfort of our living room to enjoy movies or sporting events, and with the advent of Door Dash we can even have quality restaurant food delivered to our home.
Every work day, as well as every career, is aimed at achieving that time when we can kick off our shoes, lean back in our favorite chair, and rest. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with taking a break or relaxing. There’s not even anything wrong with looking forward to resting, for that anticipated joy reflects the inward desire of all men to be at peace with God in Heaven. But too often we take advantage of restful things. We are told in scripture that we are to have six days of productivity and one day of rest. But we flip the command in pursuit of a “four-hour work week.” But this is not how God wants us to be. This is not how He designed us. We are to be “doers of the Word,” (James 1:22) to be people of action (Daniel 11:32), and warriors who “stand firm” against the powers and principalities of this present darkness (Ephesians 6:11-18).
We are not to be like radios, idly receiving the signals we are tuned into. Rather, we are to be like radio waves, constantly working around people and continually in motion.
God designed the Sabbath. And He wants us to use it. To model ourselves after Him and rest on the seventh day. But when we take advantage of this command and emphasize the need for rest as an excuse for unproductivity, we prioritize fear over faith and commit at least one of the following five sins:
Sin #1: How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” (Pr. 6:9)
The persons who prioritize rest over intentional action God calls “sluggards” in His word. He warns them to stop telling themselves that they will only rest for “a little.” And let’s be honest, you know the reason why. “A little” turns into “a little more,” which turns into “a lot,” and soon the one who prioritizes rest over intentional action is the one who experiences poverty and want ambushing him like a bandit. (Proverbs 6:9-11) God’s people are to be missional and intentional, abiding in Christ and glorifying the Father through whatever we lay our hand to do.
Sin #2: Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. (Pr. 6:6-8)
Proverbs 6:6-8 shows the sluggard how he ought to be.
The ant plans and does. It does not require anyone in authority to tell him to work. Rather, he defines today’s actions by tomorrow’s needs, takes the initiative, and accomplishes the task. The sluggard, however, does the exact opposite. They focus on today only and do not look to the future. They live by mottos like “stay in the moment,” “practice mindfulness,” and “Don’t get ahead of yourself.” But, as we have seen, the natural consequences of poverty and want awaits them.
Sin #3: The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing. (Pr. 20:4)
How many days are spent counting down the hours until you get home? And how many careers are spent in order to fund a fun retirement? I understand that rest is a necessity and retirement can be a blessing, but the goal of work should never be inaction. Though this behavior keeps an eye on the future, it focuses on the wrong goal. The goal of retirement should not be an exercise in self-absorbed vacations or an accumulation of things. Rather, it should be to continue the God-glorifying work of their life until the day the Lord calls them home. God has placed a calling on each Christian’s life, both in a general sense (The Great Commission) and in a specific sense (through yielding our lives and our wills to His designs and desires). Resting is meant to recharge for these purposes. And retirement is meant to expand our opportunities to serve. However, a Christian should never use their rest as an excuse to waste their life.
Sin #4: The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly. (Pr. 26:16)
Everyone requires a purpose greater than himself to define who they are and what they do. But a sluggard’s hyper-focus on rest causes them to avoid the transcendent altogether. They either seek the false gospel of self-enlightenment (therapy), self-promotion (prosperity), self-actualization (creating wholeness), or self-awarenesss (mindfulness).1 Such efforts make them appear wise in their own eyes, but they are fools who have turned inward for answers, having forgotten the adage that says, “Your best thinking got you here.”
Yet they persist, “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14), exchanging “the truth of God (“there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”) for a lie (“your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God”) until “they [are] filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, and malice.” (Rom. 1:25,29; Acts 4:12; Gen. 3:5)
But God calls us to join a purpose greater than ourselves (2 Tim. 1:9), one that extends across time, saves mankind from his circular attempts at self-salvation, eradicates evil and suffering, and creates a new heaven and a new earth all to the glory of the triune God. As part of this mission, we may receive enlightenment, wholeness, blessing, and awareness, but the gifts that we receive are not the good news of this gospel. Rather it is that we have been rescued by His grace from the wrath of His righteous judgment, so that we may live with Him, love Him, and accomplish for Him (both in this life and the next) our role within this purpose He calls Redemption.
Sin #5: Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him. (Prov. 10:26)
Be honest. We live most days for our own gain, not for God’s kingdom. But this is not what we have been called to do. Our calling, plain and simple, is to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Mt. 28:18-20) But most of our days are spent waking up, rushing to work, meeting deadlines, answering phone calls, picking up kids, helping with homework, taking a deep breath, and collapsing into bed. When we look at the Great Commission, we think, “Where am I supposed to fit THAT in?”
But the reality is that we are a sent people. And when we do not prioritize the calling that has been placed on our lives, we are like vinegar to God’s teeth and smoke to God’s eyes.
We all have good excuses for our lack of work, such as:
Ignorance – “I didn’t know” or “No one told me.”
Inability – “I don’t know how” or “I’ve never done that before”
Disbelief – “I can’t,” “That’s impossible,” or “That can’t be done.”
Or, my all-time favorite…
Anxiety – “I am afraid,” “I’m worried,” or “What if…”
Such excuses may seem reasonable when one examines the work and the calling against the limits of his self. But when the work is placed next to the character and person of God:
Ignorance becomes “Blessed are you…for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 16:17)
Inability becomes “Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it” (Ex. 14:16)
Disbelief becomes “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mk. 9:23)
And Anxiety becomes “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (Mt. 14:27)
If you are in a habit of sluggardliness, such a paradigm shift may seem like a Herculean task, but as Christ once said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26) And that is where you begin. With God. For it is He who will complete the work He began in you (not you yourself).
You may be the person who turns on his bed like a door on its hinge, but when God begins to change this characteristic in you, you will discover the difference between sluggardly and sent.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE TO BE SENT?
Sent people understand that the day does not begin with their calendar. It begins with their calling.
Sent people are people that do not focus on what they are to do. They focus on when and how they are to do it.
Sent people understand that their purpose in Christ is not a task to be checked off. It is a definition that sets parameters for how one interacts with the day’s various challenges, whether those challenges be in a physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual context.
Sent people understand that they are not fulfilling their purpose but have been called according to God’s purpose. So, it is in God, with God, and through God that the mission can, and will, be done.
Sent people do not measure life in a series of small goals that lead to the accomplishment of larger goals. Rather, they live with only two goals in their life: 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mk. 12:29-31)
Be better than vinegar and smoke. Be purposeful. Be diligent. Be active in your calling.
1 This list came from a great article on desiringgod.org by Tony Reinke