Two days into work and you’re already feeling exhausted. You need a holiday. But you just had one. It was supposed to charge the batteries, but right now you feel like you forgot to plug in the charger.
It’s weird how many people feel that after the holidays, and it makes us wonder whether there’s something we’re missing… some kind of trick to taking time off well.
Well it may surprise you that holidays are actually God’s idea, and not only did he invent the idea of taking holidays, he also told us how to take holidays properly. Yes, that’s right – the bible even teaches us how to go on holiday! And what it says is quite surprising. In Exodus 20, in the middle of the Ten Commandments, we find God’s original holiday instruction:
“Remember the Sabbath”
Sabbath literally means “cease”. He goes on to elaborate just what that looks like; “you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter… nor servants… nor animals…(etc.)” That means that a “holy-day” in God’s mind was to be a total, deliberate effort to be unproductive. But he also tells us why it’s so important for us to do that, and this is the key:“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”. Why did God rest? It’s not like he gets tired. No, God rested to enjoy what he had made. Because the goal of work is to rest and enjoy the results of that work. But we see it in reverse: we see the goal of rest as to charge us up to work. That’s our first mistake.
Our second mistake is that we don’t actually stop, even when we’re on holiday. We always want to keep being productive in some way or other. Even when we’re lying on the beach our mind’s abuzz with what we’re going to do in the days or months to come. We can’t help it – our value as humans seems to be derived by how productive we are, and what we’re achieving with our lives.
But God told us we need to be unproductive at regular intervals to remember that we don’t derive our value from what we do. We derive our value from what God has done. When God dealt with the nation of Israel, their tendency was to think that they were who they were because of what they had done to get there. So God tells them to take a Sabbath, and the reason he gives is: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that God brought you out…” In other words, remember that you are who you are, and you have what you have, because of me. And that’s something we need to remember too, because our tendency is also to think, “I have what I have because of how productive I am”. But God wants us to stop being productive and realize we have what we have because of him.
Our need to work for our value also distorts our relationship with God. It’s seen in human religion, and all the rules that religions lay down, all the work we supposedly need to do to be right with God. But God wants us to realize that our relationship with him isn’t dependent on how much work we do. Rather, it’s dependent on the work he’s done. He just wants us to stop and appreciate that. That’s why, when Jesus came, he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”. Jesus did all the work necessary for us to be in right relationship with God, so that if we come to him we can truly rest. If we come to him we can stop and be unproductive and just enjoy the fellowship with God that he’s worked to achieve for us.
That’s what the Sabbath is today – it’s not a regimented law to keep every week. It’s a pattern of living where we regularly stop and deliberately be unproductive to enjoy God and all he’s given us, and trust him to keep on giving to us. And so, just stop. Take time to sit down and enjoy what God has given you – the beauty of the creation around you, the friendships God has given, the food he’s made for you to enjoy… and as you do, remember what it’s pointing towards… the ultimate rest, the ultimate enjoyment of God in heaven that Jesus has made possible forever.