“Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.” (Deuteronomy 5:12, NRSV)
Then he said to them, “The sabbath day was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28, NRSV)
How regularly do we take our commanded day of rest? We run through life at a breakneck pace. We utilize every moment available to its fullest extent, striving to do as much as possible with the 168 hours in each week. As we pat ourselves on the back for such extraordinary, superhuman productivity, we must ask ourselves about the cost to our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. God commanded that we take a day of rest, not for the sake of God, but for our sake: “The sabbath day was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). God knows that we have limits, and in order to live the whole and abundant lives that God desires for us, we must take regular opportunities to refresh and recharge not only our physical batteries, but our spiritual ones as well. God rested on the seventh day, and so should we – unlike God, we actually need that rest. On this designated day of rest, there should be no “work” of any kind – this is a day to commune with God, to “take time to be holy,” as the song says. This day should be devoted to growing closer to God: read scripture, go on a nature walk, spend time with family and friends, pray, or simply sit in the silence with God. Many of us are unable to take our sabbath on Sundays – we live in a time in which Sunday has become just another day of the week to the secular world – and, if this is the case, choose a different day; the commandment is to rest on one day out of every seven, whatever day that happens to be. In the gospels, Jesus is frequently seen taking time away from the people and the crowds to take his sabbath, to be alone with God, to sit and bask in the presence and peace of God, to be with his friends. Take note, then, that even the Son of God observed a day of rest. This requirement to rest regularly, and to keep this day of rest holy, is yet another example of the fierce love of a God who knows us inside and out – the God who knows that if this day of rest was not commanded, we would not take it. God wants us to love ourselves, even as we are commanded to love our neighbors, and this begins with taking our rest. God gives us explicit permission to rest, even requiring it of us, because God knows we need it to thrive.