30 Days in the Bible, Day 24: Exodus 20:8-11
Leisure is a topic that generates a lot of interest in our frenetic society. You can find articles in magazines, posts online, and entire books written about leisure. With this kind of attention, you might think that there is a broad movement devoted to the pursuit of leisure, and that we live in a well-rested and relaxed society.
You would be wrong.
For many people, even their leisure is labor. The activities they pursue have an end other than rest and rejuvenation. Perhaps an exercise once done to renew the body has now become an end of its own, and requires a schedule as demanding as regular employment. They might even take part in activities they don’t especially enjoy in order to gain the favor of the boss, make profitable connections, or satisfy a group of family or friends. There is almost a sigh of relief when it’s time to go back to work!
Now this doesn’t mean that all leisure means you have to simply rest or only participate in activities that have no other purpose. What sets a “restful” activity apart from a “laborious” one is the motivation behind it. IF my activity is designed simply to extend my work time into my leisure hours, it ceases to provide rest and renewal. If my leisure is intended to allow my body, mind, and spirit to be refreshed, it will do that even if it incidentally provides me with other benefits.
An example of this is working out. For some people, a workout is just another job, except you pay for the privilege rather than getting paid. You put in your hour at the gym, your five miles on the run, or your 20 laps in the pool, then go home. You’ve done what you needed to do for the benefits of your body, but there was no enjoyment in it. For others, though, that same workout is a time to renew energy, to have time to think while you exercise, or simply to enjoy using the physical gifts God has given. The difference is not the activity, but the attitude.
When the Lord commanded a day of rest for Israel, it was intended for rest. It was to be a day when daily work was set aside, and people could recover from their labors. It makes sense that this became a day of worship, a day of spiritual as well as physical renewal. God did not create us to work 24/7; He made us with a need for a regular cycle of rest.
With all of the activities we have scheduled for ourselves (not to mention our children!), do we also schedule in a time of rest? You may have something you enjoy doing that needs time away from the grind of daily life, and you need to make time for it. Whether it’s reading a book, taking a hike, playing golf, having a family game night, or going out with some friends, when we take time to rest we are fulfilling God’s plan for us.
We also need to plan in our worship. When our activities crowd out time for the Lord our activities become our god. When we center our lives around them rather than Jesus they no longer are a rest, but an additional burden we may not even realize. Our rest must include a time of resting in the presence of our Savior, to be renewed in spirit for our lives in a challenging world. When we put all of this together, we will find we are indeed refreshed and renewed, able to serve the Lord with strength of body, mind, and spirit.