Sabbatical Learnings :: A Bit More Than a Nice Idea

By Jekuthiel Sofer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jekuthiel Sofer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In Exodus 20, God gives the Israelites some basics for living in response to his act to set them free from slavery.

Known to most of us as the “Ten Commandments” or “Ten Words”, they are pretty much the bare essentials to living as faithful human beings. They include prohibitions against idolatry, cursing, murder, adultery, and stealing. Most folks—Christian or not—would consider these pretty baseline guides for living. Most everyone could agree it’s a good thing to not murder; most would agree that societies can’t exist in trust if everyone is allowed to steal from each other.

The fourth commandment, however, is another story.

Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughter, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. (vv8-10 CEB)

hmmmmm…..

As I began my sabbatical, one of the things that was immediately apparent to me was how pathological my life was in regards to sabbath. As a pastor/church worker, I am already struggling against the notion that when everyone else is (supposedly) experiencing a sabbath, I am working.

But I realized there was something more.

As soon as I forced to slow down, as soon as I was free from time commitments and was forced to examine my spirituality without regards to my vocation, I realized that I had grown to see the Sabbath as something optional, something that I would do if I could just manage to get all my other stuff done in order to rest.

What’s more, I’m a part of a North American ( slash-evangelical-Christian) culture that tends to tacitly admire, even reward, those who have the most packed schedules. I constantly hear myself saying, with a slight self-satisfied air, “I’ve worked about 15 days straight, but I’m doing okay; gotta do what needs to be done.”

Let’s think about this for just a minute…

Because keeping the Sabbath isn’t optional…

It’s a commandment. 

What would it feel like for a pastor to say, “I had to embezzle some funds; sorry, I needed the money, you just gotta do what needs to be done.”

In other words, we wouldn’t treat any of the other commandments with the same disregard that we seem to treat the Sabbath.

This hit me like a ton of bricks.

In short, keeping the Sabbath needs to be elevated to the same level as the rest of the commandments, busy-ness or not.

And there’s an art to it. It’s not just about watching extra football or eating extra pork (BACON!) on the Sabbath. It’s about leaning into joy and delight.

To be blunt,

  • Are you upholding the 4th commandment?
  • What are some practices that you’re engaging in to do so?

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