Have you ever noticed how there is no differentiation or weighting given to the Ten Commandments? There is no order of priority; no relative importance ascribed one versus another. They all seem to be considered equally serious. This means that Sabbath-keeping is as important as refraining from adultery … and refraining from murder. What this should tell us is that each commandment protects us equally from misery. Each prevents us from tearing ourselves apart through trying to serve competing loves. If you think that failure to keep the Sabbath could not possibly do equivalent damage as murder, you may want to consider who an excessively busy person is killing, starting with themselves. And you may want to consider the damage being done right now to the world’s most vulnerable people through our excessive need to produce and consume. Not only do we turn a blind eye to the world’s sweat shops, but a clear majority of scientists now tell us we’re changing the earth itself, turning vast regions that had once been fertile into arid deserts.
To put it bluntly, you can break the Sabbath all you want and you will not find God coming after you with a hammer or lightning bolt. Just as the man who was having the affair found, you may go for a long time without experiencing anything but satisfaction and happiness. But after a while, you find yourself on a collision course with your own seductions. Your heart begins to believe that you are defined by what you do, and produce, and consume. Before long, the weight of the world feels like it’s on your shoulders. You begin to get lost in the trees and lose a sense of the beauty and majesty of the forest.
To put it even more bluntly: Each week that you fail to set aside a full day for playing and praying, you essentially send out a signal to God, the Universe, and Life itself that you consider yourself and what you’re doing more important than God and what God is doing. And since the Commandment is ultimately about accepting God’s love and blessing, not mere rule-following, you are also sending up a signal that you don’t really care to receive the blessings God intends for you. Is this the message you want to send?
If not, then I have a simple suggestion. For the next three months, commit yourself to the following:
- Choose one day a week that will be entirely devoted to praying and playing – to rest and reflection, worship and recreation. If Sunday isn’t that day (It isn’t for ministers!), then take Saturday, or Monday, or whatever day you aren’t required to work. Whatever day it is, call that your Sabbath.
- Be rigid about protecting your Sabbath day. Don’t schedule meetings unless they are prayer meetings, or meetings with someone for lunch or a bike ride or attending a sporting event (See, there is a certain holiness to Huskers games!), or you’re meeting people for worship (not to be equated with Huskers games …). When people tempt you to break your Sabbath and don’t understand why you’re not doing it, be confident in telling them that your Sabbath-keeping is part of your basic commitment to yourself and to your God. It’s even part of your commitment to them – to being the kind of person who is most loving and generous.
- Don’t be so rigid about Sabbath-keeping that you get caught up in the rules over the Spirit behind the rules. If you mess up now and then, cut yourself some slack, trusting that God’s grace is sufficient.
- And don’t be so enamored by God’s grace that you begin to justify any sort of busyness as part of your Sabbath-keeping. Remember the Sabbath is meant to be sacred time. It isn’t simply for cleaning house and getting caught up on errands.
If you will follow this plan – religiously – for three months, I guarantee that you will never break the Sabbath again if you can help it. Why? Because you will get a serious taste of the freedom God wants for you. Just like an escaped slave, once you taste that freedom you will never willingly wear the chains of servitude again.
By remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy, you will be sending a signal to God, the Universe, and Life itself that the world does not revolve around you; that your worth isn’t defined by what you do, but who you are as a child of God. (Just as importantly, you’re sending that message to yourself.) And you will be sending (and receiving) an equally potent message each week that you honestly desire to receive the blessings God intends for you.