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The good of work and the gift of rest
Pastor Ben Sadler
by Pastor Ben Sadler
April 15, 2024

“How are you doing, Michael?”

“I’m busy.”

Busyness is our way of virtue signaling. We are letting our fellow Americans know that we uphold our culture’s highest value: hard work.

The same dynamic is in play when we talk about our kids:

“Hey, John, how are your kids doing?”

“Great! He made the traveling baseball team.”

Or …

“She was accepted by so-and-so university.”

Or …

“He just landed a new job.”

In other words, our kids are keeping up. They are not committing society’s mortal sin: laziness.

A Christian could make the case that this American value is also a biblical value. Paul told the Thessalonians: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat’” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

However, we can have too much of a good thing. In a culture like ours, work can become our functional god. We can be tempted to make our jobs the justification of our existence. When we take a good thing like work and make it an ultimate thing, we can expect burnout to be around the corner.

There is another way, the way of Jesus.

On one hand, Jesus modeled hard work. Just read the opening chapter of Mark’s gospel. Jesus spent the Sabbath in the synagogue preaching and teaching. Then he went to Simon Peter’s house for lunch, continuing to teach after healing Peter’s mother-in-law. Then after sunset, when it was permitted by the Sabbath law to begin “working” again, Jesus healed all those in the community who were sick and demon possessed until the wee hours of the night.

Yet Mark tells us something absent in our cultural vernacular: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).

Yes, Jesus valued hard work. He pushed himself to the point of exhaustion in service to others. But he also acknowledged his human limitations and accepted the gift of rest. He took time to get away from the clamoring demands of the crowds to be refreshed in the presence of his heavenly Father through prayer.

In other words, Jesus worked hard and rested well.

That same Jesus sends out an invitation to all who are weary and burdened: “Come to me . . . and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28,29).

In other words, we are encouraged to follow his example, separating ourselves from our restless devices and the never-ending demands to recharge in his presence through prayer.

This makes me think of a conversation I once had with a friend. When I started out in ministry, I toiled every day, working hard but not getting much done. Then my friend said, “The Lord God spent six days creating the world. Then he took a day off. Who do you think you are?”

If you want to avoid burnout: enjoy the blessing of work but also be willing to accept the gift of rest.