Work Won’t Love You Back
Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy sabbath of solemn rest to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. – Exodus 35:2-3 (NRSV)
“Sobering reminder: If we die our jobs will just post our opening. Don’t let work kill you.” (Heather Thompson Day on Twitter)
This is not a leap year. You do not get an extra day tomorrow. If you did—be honest—you would probably just fill it with the same kinds of busy-ness today holds. Mostly work! Too much of it. Paid and unpaid.
Getting an extra day would not be like turning the clock back in autumn: a sneaky sabbath, a gift from God, the afternoon suddenly feeling woozy and layabout and ready for anything. Or better yet: ready for nothing.
Yet that extra day is exactly what God does give us, every week. Actually, God demands it from us—in order to give it back tous.
The sabbath, Rabbi Heschel’s “palace in time,” is a commandment given alllll the way back when Moses and the Israelites were still manna-gathering and as yet had no civilization to maintain. Before they were really busy, in other words. Jesus later reinforced it when he said, “The sabbath was made for humans and not humans for the sabbath.”
In other words: God craves our rest. So much so that overwork, God told Moses, comes with a death sentence. And God isn’t the executioner (doublecheck the text!). Overwork itself is.
In modern parlance: work will never love you back, and it may even hasten your demise. But God will love you back. So will the friends and family and animal companions and vegetable gardens and books that fill your sabbaths.
God, thank you for making sabbath a commandment, something I must do … almost as if it were my job. Amen.
Molly Baskette pastors at First Church Berkeley (CA) UCC. She is the author of several books about church renewal, parenting & faith, and spirituality. You can connect with her by subscribing to her newsletter, Doomsday Dance Party.