Words from Our Pastor

Monday, May 13, 2019

Sabbath: The Antidote for Productivity Martyrdom

It doesn’t take a psychologist to realize many of us are frazzled.  These days, we are all dashing back and forth with our harried schedules, convinced it shows we are productive and “getting things done.”  In fact, our busyness has almost become this strange badge of honor.  We have somehow convinced ourselves that being busy demonstrates our worthiness.  But the reality is, we are not accomplishing as much as we think; studies consistently show our multi-tasking is actually compromising the quality of our work.  We might be “doing” more, but we are not really doing any of it well.   And what’s worse, we are passing this illusion on to our kids.

Scripture consistently lifts up the understanding of the Sabbath.  In the Ten Commandments, God explicitly states that we are to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath day to the Lord God.” (Exodus 20). Our Creator has an intimate understanding of our needs; rest is an essential part of daily living.  It is through rest that we are able to recharge and maintain our health.  Even the land requires a Sabbath; in Leviticus God institutes the understanding of the seventh year being a time when a field is to lie fallow.  It is during this time that the soil is able to restore its nutrients and recover from the previous six years.  Any farmer will tell you this is sound agricultural practice.

So why is it that we resist the understanding of Sabbath?  Why are we so convinced that we are resistant to the need for rest?  

I’m afraid our culture is slipping into dangerous territory by ignoring the vital understanding of Sabbath.  Our technology is only exacerbating this situation.  At one point we left work at “quitting time” (whatever time that might be) and came home to our family and friends.  We resumed whatever challenges or issues or tasks awaited us once we returned to our place of work the next day.  But now, thanks to “productivity” tools as texts, emails, cell phones, and computers, it is possible for our work day to never end.  While the initial goal of these advances was to allow for more flexibility and work/life balance, the results have been quite the opposite.  We are often present, but absent.  We are on the phone at our kids’ soccer games, texting during family dinner, or emailing late at night when we need to be relaxing with a good book, or chatting with our spouse.

Look, I’m as guilty as anyone else.  If not more so.  But we don’t have to live this way.  Together, we can heed the instructions our Lord gave us and resist the temptation to be productivity martyrs.  Let’s stop fooling ourselves that being busy, working at all hours, multi-tasking, crossing things off our to-do lists, and racing around from appointment to appointment somehow boosts our significance or increases our value.  We can:

Set clear expectations with colleagues and customers that, at a certain time, our availability is limited.
We can limit our use of electronic communication tools such as texting and emailing, establishing clear boundaries for their use.  If needed, you can enlist the help of an accountability partner to keep you on track.
We can challenge ourselves to be intentional about carving out a set amount of time each day and each week for rest; to take a nap, meditate, watch a movie, go for a walk, or have a nice meal.

These are just a few examples.  I challenge you (and myself!) to try a few of these, or maybe create your own.  But together we can revisit the power of the Sabbath.  The late theologian and pastor Eugene Peterson once said, “If you don’t take a Sabbath, something is wrong. You’re doing too much, you’re being too much in charge.  You’ve got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you’re not doing anything.”

I think that about sums it up.

See you in church,
Pastor Brook