Proverbs 24:30-34; Exodus 20:8-11
Finding the Good Life
Sunday, June 15, 2014
When we lived in Atlanta, we had some good friends who bought a boat. Now, let me rephrase that — what I should say is that we had good friends where the wife allowed her husband to buy a boat despite her reservations about it. In all fairness to him, her reservations were not the cost or his desire to invest in something that would allow them to have fun together as a family or to get his mind off his busy, professional life. She was all for both of those possibilities.
No, her reservation about the boat was related to what she had experienced from him in the past. You see, at several points along the way of their marriage, he had embraced other hobbies with the same desires. Each time, his hope was to invest himself in some type of leisure pursuit that they could all enjoy as a family while at the same time helping him to escape from his working life. Yet, rather than a fun diversion it became an all-consuming project. Instead of providing a source of enjoyment, the restful pursuit almost always became more of a second job. In turn, her fear was that the new boat would soon become yet another example of her husband’s poor attempt at resting.
I wish I could tell you she was wrong. But, instead, I will tell you that she was 100% right. Before I knew it, we never saw them. The new boat literally took over their lives.
What this story illustrates is that often times, particularly in 2014, our struggle is not simply with the idea of rest but rather our struggle can often be with the question of how does one find a way to rest well? In turn, today, on this Father’s Day, I want to invite us to wrestle with this statement in light of the two passages that we are focusing on this morning. For while all of us have to be attentive to what it means to rest well, I think men are particularly prone to struggles here as being much more tempted to either dismiss the idea of rest at all or to find it difficult to discover a way to rest with appropriate parameters.
This morning, I want to invite us to think about these questions in light of what appear to be two passages that seem opposed to each other and on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Our text for today from Proverbs, like our passage from Proverbs last Sunday, centers on the virtue of hard work. In fact, it so hammers this idea home that one may conclude that according to Proverbs anyone who is less than a workaholic falls far short of who God wants them to be. Yet, as I highlighted last week too, while Proverbs sees hard work as an absolute strong virtue to embrace, it does not mean to insinuate that working hard means never resting. No, again, as we talked about last week, Proverbs advocates working hard while at the same time embracing a proper rhythm in one’s life that makes time for dedicated work and at the same time dedicated rest. Proverbs, like the rest of the Bible understands that if one is going to be able to work hard, one must also rest well.
In turn, that is why we are also emphasizing today Exodus chapter 20. For, in the Ten Commandments, God commands us to rest. We must spend time recharging our batteries. We must spend time away from our professional lives. And, we must spend time renewing our inner being.
Again, the call to rest is a deeply Biblical idea. Let me say it a different and perhaps more direct way. If we don’t make time for regular rest and if we don’t encourage the important people in our lives to rest, then we must be honest with ourselves that we are ignoring one of the clear commands of the scripture. Sure, our mature culture applauds and venerates those who work countless hours, but, just because our culture embraces this way of living — it doesn’t make this approach to life biblical.
Having said that, again though, the primary question for today is what does it mean not only to rest, but, what does it mean to rest well? Let me quickly mention three thoughts that I think are helpful for life today and that are equally in keeping with who God calls us to be.
First, let me remind us that to rest well is first to rest in God. The idea of Sabbath time, is first and foremost, about stopping our work in order to make time to renew our relationship with God and to worship. In turn, to be Christian and to rest should innately mean to prioritize worship.
Now, let me state the obvious. Sundays in 2014 are quickly becoming focused on many more things that renewing our relationship with God. It truly is amazing what now happens on Sunday. But, lest we criticize the world for not honoring the Sabbath, let me also suggest that those of us who are believers have not done a great job of keeping the Sabbath at times either. It is our willingness to quickly do other things on Sundays and to allow them to trump worship that has been as instrumental as anything in leading us to the place where we now are.
Now, I am in no way talking about the occasional Sunday away. We all are away from time to time and that is fine. But, when being away becomes a habitual practice or when we are away more than we are here because of our own personal, leisure choices, then I think we need to evaluate whether we are resting well in the way that God desires.
Second, let me suggest to us that to rest well in 2014 is to disconnect when we rest. Did you know that according to a recent survey, 80% of Americans in the workforce now admit to answering emails, texts or returning phone call in the evenings once the work day is over? Believe it or not, the total time spent in the evenings “working” often adds up to another full day of work a week. It has become such an issue that some countries in the world have passed laws related to this modern issue. In Brazil, companies must pay employees overtime for calls, emails and texts after hours. In Germany, the entire practice has been banned except for in emergencies.
Again, I am not suggesting that we can ever totally stop such behavior. But, my suspicion is that if you are like me, you will admit that all of us can do a better job of guarding our time away from work as well as helping others, whom we may be prone to email ourselves after hours, to do the same.
In this same vein of disconnecting, let me also encourage us that when our time to rest is also our time to reconnect with the important people in our lives, that spending these precious hours on Facebook, texting or surfing the internet is not always the best use of our time. And, this is certainly not an issue any more just for our younger generations, no, this is becoming increasingly an issue for all of us.
I am not saying that I have any better handle on this than any of you do. Likewise, I am certainly not suggesting that the scriptures directly address this issue of the modern world because they don’t. But, my guess is that if the internet, Facebook and twitter had been around in the biblical world, there would have been or Proverb or two about the issue.
Finally, let me encourage us that resting well also happens when our hobbies are hobbies not our second jobs. Let’s be clear that in the scripture, the idea of rest through stopping our work is not only about renewing our relationship with God but also about renewing our bodies. To do so, we must allow our bodies the time they need to recover and be renewed. Spending our time or our children’s time rushing from one event to the next every weekend doesn’t accomplish this task. Neither does taxing ourselves in our hobbies to such a degree that they become more exhausting physically and mentally than our real jobs.
When George W. Bush was elected President, you may remember that on the day he was sworn into office, he said that he wanted to set the record for being the president who went to bed the earliest on his inauguration night. This statement set the tone for what became a famous trait of Bush. The vast majority of the time, he went to bed by 10pm while in the White House.
Now, I don’t want to oversimplify this or to ignore the fact that Bush also reportedly was at work by 6:45 every morning which accounts for being ready for bed by 10pm. At the same time, I do think it is fascinating that the leader of the free world went to bed early almost every night recognizing that he needed to rest and unplug. He could not do everything and he could not do it in one day either.
We all need this. We all need to renew our bodies — both spiritual and physical. We all need to unplug and unwind. We all need to rest. And, in the midst of the unique world that is 2014, we need to make sure that we choose to rest well. Amen.