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Summary: A Biblical Perspective on Work and Rest


A Biblical Perspective on Work and Rest

Scripture: Genesis 1:1-2:3


• Labor Day is officially a day to celebrate and pay tribute to the American worker, but it is commonly seen as the last blast of summer vacation time before we get back to the regular grind of hard work.

• As I thought of the topic of labor and work, the song of the Seven Dwarfs in Snow White immediately came to mind – "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off To Work We Go" – and I wondered how many among us might identify more this morning with Grumpy, Sneezy, Dopey, or Sleepy than with Happy, Bashful, or Doc.

• I hope that you’ve all got more of Happy and Doc in you today than any of the others.

• Work and rest are two of the most essential ingredients that make up our human life. We do both, in differing proportions, from the day we are born till the day we die. So what does God’s Word have to teach us about these two?

I. Work and Rest are both God’s Idea

1) We learn that lesson from the very first chapters of Genesis – The first 5 words tell us “In the beginning God created…” and in the second and third verses of chapter two we read that “On the seventh day…God rested from all His work and God blessed the seventh day and made it holy…”

2) God wove the pattern or the rhythm of work and rest into the very fabric of the universe he created.

3) And then we see in chapter two how the Lord created a garden in Eden and placed man in it – verse 15 says: The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

4) Part of that work involved management and care for all the animals. God even gave Adam the job of naming the animals – verse 19 says “Whatever the man named each living creature, that was its name.”

5) Now giving a name in Biblical culture involved much more than simply sticking a label on someone or something – it had the force of giving it identity, character, and purpose – giving a name in essence infused the creature or being with all that the name signified and called forth those characteristics from it.

6) With the creation of Eve, woman, out of a bone from man’s side (not from his head to rule over him, nor from his foot to be under his rule) God intended for man and woman to be an inseparable team working side by side to administer and care for God’s world on His behalf – reflecting the divine and heavenly nature here on earth.

7) In Exodus, when God revealed His law to the nation of Israel, He gave the Sabbath commandment with the clear understanding that people would need to rest on the seventh day because they were working the other six.

"Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed." (Exodus 23:12).

8) God planned for us to work and He planned for us to rest and He created the Sabbath for that purpose.

9) God did not create the Sabbath to be a burden on our backs but a protection for them. Jesus helped us understand the purpose of the Sabbath Law, in Mark 2:27 when the Pharisees charged Him and His disciples with breaking that Law by plucking ears of grain to eat as they walked through a field on the Sabbath - He stated that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

10) Jesus also continued to heal and minister to the sick on the Sabbath in spite of the opposition and anger of the Pharisees. In Mark 3:4 Jesus asked them "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent.

11) So work and rest are God’s plan and pattern for us. But human need and suffering always moves the heart of God to respond – even on the Sabbath – and so it should be also with us.

II. How we do our work and use our rest say much about who we are

Now I am not going to spend time here dealing at any length with what Scripture has to say about laziness and idleness. I am going to take it for granted that you are all good, faithful, diligent, hard-working people. Paul writes to the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 3:1-13) what had obviously been part of his earlier discipling instruction, that "...if any one will not work, let him not eat". And he then gave the exhortation and command that such idle busybodies (seems like a contradiction in terms - but people not busy in any constructive labor - expecting others always to bail them out) get to work and earn their own living and not expect others to do for them what they were quite able to do for themselves. Enough said.

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