In 1960s during the Cultural Revolution in China, the Chairman Mao decided that he needed to enhance the country’s productivity. He concluded that to do that it was necessary to implement a seven day work week. According to him, it was unnecessary to rest every seven days, it was even harmful, because it lowered the productivity. Only two days in a year were free for rest.
What would it be like to live in a world without the Sabbath? According to Henry Ward Beecher: “A world without a Sabbath would be like a man without a smile, like summer without flowers, and like a homestead without a garden. It is the most joyous day of the week.”
China returned soon back to six day week because people started to wear and the production rates lowered even more. But sadly in many factories in China, and in other parts of the world, the seven day workweek is functioning and people are made to work without rest.
In Deuteronomy it says: 12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. (Deuteronomy 5:12-14)
God does not only say that we should rest but He comands us to not work and make sure our children, worker, animals and foreigners who live among us shall not work either. For Him, the Sabbath is for everyone. So that everyone and everything can rest and recover.
What would that mean in our daily life?
For me personally, it means making as sure as I can that no one is working for me today.
If I go to shop, that would mean that people in the store are working so I could shop. If I go to a restaurant, it means that people making and serving the meal are working for my benefit.
It is a radical view, and not everyone will agree with me. And I'm the first to say, do not make rules, because they are easy to make and easy to break.
But sometimes we need to stop and consider the impact we make around us. As Walter Brueggemann says: “Sabbath, in the first instance, is not about worship. It is about work stoppage. It is about withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharaoh, the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production and consumption and the endless pursuit of private well-being.”
Harsh words, and a red flag to many. It may sound too radical to you.
I personally think that the Sabbath is about the worship. But it isn't only about the worship. It is very much about the rest.
If we read from the Bible why God first ordered Sabbath we can find out in the Genesis: 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)
Sabbath is more than just stopping producing and gaining strength to produce more. The Sabbath is to commemorate the rest God Himself had when He contemplated His work, by letting the people rest. In Exodus it is said: 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
This is the second part of three in considerations about keeping the Sabbath. You can find the first part here. The third part will be coming soon.