“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8
Our world is much different today than it was say 20 years ago, or is it? The pace of our lives has shifted dramatically, and we now spend very little time in leisure. 2015 statistics from the United States Bureau of Labor show that on average, Americans spend 3 hours per day on Leisure activities, including sports, versus almost 9 hours per day on work or work-related activities. The same statistics show that we are working 13 more minutes, on average, per day then we were in 2013. So we are working more and resting less.
The Old Testament idea of the Sabbath was that all work would cease on this day. God created the world in six days and on the seventh he rested from all labor. Over time, this became corrupted, and in the time of Jesus, we see examples of persecution taking place. There are a few examples of Jesus being criticized for healing on the Sabbath, and at least one occasion, Jesus’ disciples are criticized for picking the heads of grain as they walked through a field on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:1-2)
By definition, the Sabbath was to be a day of rest from all work and worship. But it was a day for family and community. In the early days of the founding of America, the Pilgrims had stringent rules around the Sabbath and what one was able to do. Attendance at religious services was mandatory and other than, the basic of work to keep the farm animals alive; all other work would cease on that day and violators of the rules would face severe punishment.
But what about today, what about our modern notion of a Sabbath?
While in seminary, I worked at a camp run by a Jewish organization. The camp would host several hundred girls during the summer, and I worked as the head chef and was responsible for three meals a day for the staff and the campers. The camp was kosher and also observed the Sabbath which meant that no cooking or meal preparation was allowed on Saturday as that would have constituted work. So all of the work for the Saturday preparation had to be accomplished on Friday. It was okay to serve the food we just could not prepare it.
I am a minister, and as such, I work on Sunday the day that Christians have set aside as the Sabbath. Now, I do not usually work the entire day, but I do work on that day. So I have transferred the Sabbath to another day, usually Monday. Monday is my Sabbath day, and I try to build a wall around that day for other activities. But even though I make a fence around that day, it is not a day of complete rest, but I do take it easy. Now taking an entire day off might not be possible but the idea is we do the best we can, and while on that time off, we are indeed off.
Being truly off is not something that I am good at, but I am getting better at it. For example, I still check email and social media sites on my Sabbath day. However, I know folks who genuinely unplug on their Sabbath day, I am not there yet, but I am working on it.
The bottom line to all of this is, like with all things is the striving for balance in our lives. I learned a long time ago, that if our lives are out of balance, and includes a connection between the body, mind, and soul, then we are not functioning correctly. The creator understood this and left an example to follow, work six days and rest one.
So take some time, even if it is only an hour, unplug from the world and get some rest. In the end, we all will be better off.