5 Reasons We Don't Observe a Sabbath
"That sounds good, but I just don't have time to take a whole day off." -pretty much everyone when I start talking to them about observing a Sabbath.
To be clear, by "observe a Sabbath" I do mean intentionally abstaining from anything and everything that you might consider "work" for a continuous 24-period of time. In place of work, observing a Sabbath involves pursuing rest, remembrance, and renewal.
Even when we become convinced that observing a Sabbath is beneficial for us our brains begin finding all kinds of reasons why we shouldn't/can't do it. Those objections fall into 5 main categories:
We have faulty beliefs about the Sabbath. Many Christians simply don't think they have to observe a Sabbath. Sabbath observance isn't commanded in the New Testament and many of Jesus' controversies with the religious leaders of His day centered on questions about the Sabbath. Unfortunately, we throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to the Sabbath. Observing a Sabbath isn't required for Christians. At the same time, observing a Sabbath is beneficial. And even though many of Jesus' controversies with the religious leaders centered on the way in which a Sabbath was observed, Jesus never condemned actual Sabbath observance. In fact, He elevated it by stating "The Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).
We've completely acquiesced to hustle culture. In 21st century North America, busyness is next to godliness culturally speaking. If we can't describe our schedule as "busy" or "crazy," do we matter? 24-7 availability, email and social media on our phones, and simply cell phones themselves have blurred the lines between work and personal time. Any time spent on an activity or project not related in some way to work feels like wasted time. In contrast, the Bible paints a picture of life where rest, renewal, and joy are values to be prioritized and cultivated. When we fail to create space for these and other biblical values, we evidence lives that have completely surrendered to cultural expectations that are literally killing our bodies and our souls.
We're unsure how to actually observe a Sabbath. Our cultural reference point seems to be the 1950's. My grandparents longingly remembered the days when blue laws forced businesses to close on Sundays and most every home attended a church somewhere. But these two elements do not necessarily a Sabbath make. Yes, abstaining from work and worship are two components of a Sabbath, but Sabbaths don't have to be on one day of the week and, especially for those of us who work or serve in a local church, Sundays are more of a work day than a rest day anyway. We lack good models of how to prioritize rest, renewal, and remembrance. So, with only a blurry model of what it means to observe a Sabbath as our guide, we just don't do it.
Observing a Sabbath requires intentionality and forethought. Especially challenging for those of us who aren't planners by nature, the level of forethought that goes into planning a Sabbath can be challenging for even the most dedicated of planners. To create a true 24-hour buffer of Sabbath time you must plan ahead and alter how you spend your time the remaining 6 days of the week. I first started observing a Sabbath as a seminary student. At the time, I was managing a cafe full-time, taking a full-time load of master's level coursework, and helping start a new church. Our church met on Sunday evenings, so I took Saturdays as my Sabbath. I didn't crack a book, study for a test, or check work email all day. But all that still had to be done. So, I was at my favorite non-work coffee place at 6:30 AM on Sunday morning where I stayed and worked until around lunch time. Both Saturdays and Sunday mornings were consistently protected on my calendar in order for me to properly observe my Sabbath.
You've probably got FOMO. Fear of missing out is a real malady that impacts our decision-making process. It could be a social experience, an important development that impacts your job, or even a version of keeping us with the Joneses-- the point is that FOMO is a mal-formative spiritual force that prevents you from prioritizing behaviors and practices that are better for your soul. We've got to identify FOMO, name the lie it has us believing, and resolve to pursue practices that are true and form us towards Christ-likeness in its place.