Labor Day – What is rest?

It is Labor Day here in the U.S., the day where we celebrate labor by taking the day off…

But there is a question that has always intrigued me about our American view of work (maybe the same in other places, but this only first-hand perspective I have):

Do we actually ever rest from work?

I witnessed this dilemma, more so than struggled with it, from an interesting perspective for several years as a golf professional (to clarify a question I have answered many times – golf professional, works at golf course; professional golfer, plays in golf tournaments). As a golf professional, it was my job to create an environment for the members to escape. Now there were a lot things they were escaping from, but one thing often they did not escape from was work. Sure there were times they looked to get away from work, nevertheless, much “work” happened on the golf course:

-Members would bring customers to the course, the “wine-and-dine” round;

-Members would hold staff meetings at the course, the “get-away” round;

-Members would get together with others in the same line of work at the course, the “research” round;

-Members would bring politicians to the course, the “lobbying” round.

What is interesting is that in each of these cases an activity thought of as rest from work provided the impetus to work. In other words, the goal was not to stop working, but to work in a different environment.

And this is the where I think the American view of work struggles, we actually never rest from work, we “rest” from being at work. Vacation has become a time to get out of the office…A day off means not going into the office…but work continues – we answer emails, we read reports, we check the market, we take the phone call, etc. In this age of constant connection, it has become acceptable to get out, but never away.

This is one area I believe the church has the ability to speak prophetically to American culture as we recapture the biblical idea of sabbath. Sabbath is not easily defined, but it at least means to cease working so that we can concentrate on worship. Sabbath is refocusing our activity and attention away from work. Sabbath does not therefore mean that we cease all activity, but it requires not just getting out but away from work.

On this Labor Day can we as Christians reconsider our labor? To include Sabbath as a regular part of our life where we cease to labor? To remind our culture that it necessary to get away from, not just out of, work?



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