Taking a Sabbath is possibly the easiest of the Ten Commandments that many of us feel able to justify breaking.
Most Christians would not try to rationalise away the commands not to murder, commit adultery or steal. Worshipping false idols is generally condemned in church circles, and even honouring our parents is something most begrudgingly admit is a good idea. But when it comes to taking a Sabbath day, so often we seem to think we know better than God.
I’m not advocating legalism here. I don’t think there is anything more holy about the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) or the Lord’s Day (Sunday) that the early church began to celebrate. All days are holy, and for the worship of God, whether we are working or resting. But the word holy actually means ‘set apart.’ Do we recognise the biblical command to set apart one day per week, to rest from our work?
The word Sabbath actually means ‘cease.’ The command is not there to burden us, but to help us find a rhythm of life that is free from burnout, tiredness, depression and anxiety. These things have now reached epidemic proportions in much of the Western Church. Could it be because we have neglected the importance of the fourth commandment?
Do you have one day a week where you rest? No checking your emails? No answering the phone to work? No planning for work projects? Just doing things that bring you rest – spending quality time with your family, or enjoying your hobbies?
Taking a Sabbath is a spiritual discipline, just as praying, reading the Bible, worshipping God and fasting are spiritual disciplines. It does take discipline to get into the practice, but there are great spiritual benefits to doing it. That’s why God gave it to us as a command.
So what is your day of ceasing? And what do you do on it to make sure you cease, rest, and recreate?
Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s a lay preacher and leader within the Methodist Church, author of a biography on John Wesley, and currently researching for a biography on William Wilberforce. He enjoys good films, good food, praying for London, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.