June 26, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed. Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.”—Exodus 23:10–13 (NIV)
“Taking Care of Business,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “9 to 5,” “She Works Hard for the Money,” and “Money for Nothing” are all hit songs about work. Today’s passage shows God’s desire for His people to rest from their work—not just for His people to rest, but for His people to give their workers, animals, and land rest as well.
It seems like an absurd concept to allow an entire year to pass without producing anything from the fields. This is certainly not a familiar or even welcomed concept to our modern mindset regarding hard work and income. Perhaps you’ve heard expressions like these:
Do you how all of these expressions refer to working without ceasing? After all, there’s an aspect of pride when it comes to working hard and the idea of providing for oneself or others. However, if we believe that God is our provider and that He created work and rest for us and not the other way around, then we begin to see an issue with overworking.
Let’s begin by considering God’s provision: “He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—he remains faithful forever” (Psalm 146:6 NIV). God created everything, this includes you and me and all the resources in the world. When we identify ourselves by the work we do, we begin to lose sight of that truth. It’s as if God no longer has the ability to provide and we shift from a mindset of freedom and generosity to a mindset of slavery and scarcity.
Next, let’s consider how God gave Adam work to do: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15 NIV). Notice that it doesn’t say Adam was working tirelessly in the garden day and night. Work and work ethic are good things because they’re God given, but overworking displays a lack of trust in God’s provision and His command for us to rest.
Finally, let’s consider the Sabbath, which is also God given. In Mark 2:27 (NIV) Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Jesus was correcting the false ideology of the self-righteous Pharisees who had turned the Sabbath into a burdensome ritual. They had taken God’s good command to rest and turned it into work. God wants us to work and rest. Both are true and not mutually exclusive from one another.
Today’s passage concludes with God saying, “Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.” When work becomes an idol, we’re worshipping a false god. So, instead of trusting in ourselves and our work ethic, let’s do as the apostle Paul exhorts us in Colossians 3:23–24 (NIV): “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Pause: Think of an area in your life where you trust more in your ability to provide than in God’s ability to provide.
Practice: Be intentional in taking time to rest so you can be refreshed. Not simply by doing nothing at all, but finding rest from your daily habits and routine. Perhaps taking up a hobby, reading a good book, exploring a local park, having intentional family time, etc. Whatever you decide to do, commit this time to the Lord and ask Him to bless it.
Pray: Lord God, I thank You that You are my provider. I thank You for giving me a desire to work and to work hard in whatever it is I do. Please help me to recognize Your provision for myself and my loved ones, so I don’t fall into the mindset of overworking. Amen.