Rest: God’s Answer to Workaholism

Are you a workaholic? Think about these questions: Do you get up early, no matter how late you went to bed? Do you work while you eat lunch? Do you work on weekends and holidays? Do you find it hard to take a vacation? If you answered yes to these questions, you may be a workaholic.

Someone once defined workaholism as an addiction to work rather than results. Then again, there are many results oriented people who always can find something else that needs to get done. Sometimes we think, well, what’s so bad about working hard? And the answer is, nothing; it’s commendable. But an addiction to work is dangerous. At our jobs, workaholism makes us less productive. Dr. Charles Garfield of the University of California said, “The workaholic never makes the discovery, writes the position paper, or becomes the CEO.” In our homes, it leads to failed relationships, alienated children, even divorce. Workaholism creates havoc for our own well being, producing physical exhaustion, emotional burnout, alcoholism, and even heart attacks. Workaholism also keeps us from giving God the worship and reasonable service due Him.

Why do some of us work so much? For any number of reasons, including our own self-expectations, or to build our own self-esteem, or because of employer expectations. Whatever the cause, it’s hurting us.

That’s why, Eva and I are committed to a weekly personal Sabbath for physical rest and spiritual renewal. And now that the semester is over, we’re planning on taking a few days off this week (which actually prompted this posting). We’ll read, walk, play with our grandkids. It’s also why were planning a full vacation this summer. The reason for these decisions is that we’re trying to follow the principle laid down in the 10 Commandments.

Exodus 20:8-10 (GNT) reads: “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. You have six days in which to do your work,  but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work.” People are sometimes confused about this word from God. Sometimes people think we’re still obligated to keep Sabbath as Israel did. Others think all the Sabbath laws have been transferred to Sunday. And still others think, since this is the only one of the 10 Commandments not repeated in the New Testament, there is no need to take a day of rest—that we’re free to work 7 days a week, in essence to become workaholics with God’s approval.

But let’s understand Sabbath law as it is in the Bible. First, at creation, God set an example for humanity by resting on the 7th day (Gen 2:2-3). After creating the world, it’s not as if God was tired. Omnipotence knows no fatigue; Omniscience doesn’t run out of ideas. Rather, God was modeling for us what we need—to rest from our labors. Second, at Mt. Sinai, God gave Israel a command to keep the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:12-17). For the first time, living as a theocracy under God, Israel was to obey Him by keeping the Sabbath. Third, with the New Covenant, God established a principle of rest for all of us. By not repeating the command and by warning us not to let anyone judge us with regard to Sabbath observance (Col 2:16), it becomes clear that we’re not necessarily to keep Sabbath as Israel did. Rather we need to listen to Paul’s explanation in Romans 14:5: “One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind.” The point is, it doesn’t matter what day we chose to take as our rest day. But we must remember the principle that goes back all the way to the beginning of the Bible—the need to rest one day a week. And not just one day, we need to take a few days to rest when we can. We need to take vacations so we can rest and be restored.

There are three reasons rest is so crucial. First, we need to rest to rejuvenate ourselves. Our bodies grow weary and our emotions grow strained. We need to rest to renew our strength and relieve our stress. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while” (Mark 6:31).

Second, we need to rest to remember our God. Taking a rest reminds us of our Creator, who rested after finishing the creation (Ex 31:17). It also recalls our Redeemer, who delivered us, “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why the LORD your God has commanded you to keep the [Rest] day” (Deut 5:15).

Third,  we need to rest to renew our spirits. Just as a compass needs to be recalibrated periodically to keep it pointing in the right direction, so we need recalibration on weekly basis to keep us balanced. We need a day for worship with others, an additional appointment with God for some extended alone time, or a day for a more in-depth study of the Bible. We may need some time to listen to beautiful music, to ride bikes with our spouses, play catch with our kids, or even just to watch a ball game with some friends. All these will help us recover from the strains of work and prepare us for the challenges that are still ahead.

So don’t feel guilty for not working all the time. When the work day is over, turn off your phone notifications and don’t check your email. Plan to include rest, recreation and renewal for at least one day a week. And take that vacation—even if finances mean it has to be a staycation. Obey God’s Word and take a rest.

Leave a Reply