Sabbath-Fueled Generosity

When someone asks me how I’m doing, I typically respond that I’m busy.

I’ve been working on not answering this way. Using “busy” as my default status reminds me of my misplaced priorities. Even though it pains me to admit, I tend to advertise my busyness to establish my value or my importance.

We could try to defend this hustle culture from a spiritual perspective. We could argue that the more we produce, the more resources we can acquire, and then the more we’ll have to be generous. The problem is that our generosity isn’t generated by productivity.

The Lord understands the human tendency to equate our worth with personal output. It’s why I believe that He created the concept of Sabbath—an opportunity for workaholics to combat the temptation of overcommitment.

The Hebrew word for Sabbath is “Shabbat.” It means “rest” or “ceasing.” Sabbath is a unique concept. No other ancient society outside of God’s people observed the Sabbath. As we know, the reason for this is traced back to the creation narrative in the book of Genesis. In the first six days, God created the universe. Upon completion, He did something out of character: He did nothing.

Later in the Bible, God’s people are commanded to keep the Sabbath, emulating His example during the Creation of the world. Even though the command to keep a ritual Sabbath no longer binds Christians, we would do well to consider regular rest. A few reasons why Sabbath (or rest, if you will) can unleash our generosity.

First, rest is a reminder to trust God.

In ancient times, when the Lord first commanded his people to keep the Sabbath, observing it was an act of faith. There was no refrigeration or way to store food long-term. In short, if you did not work, you might not eat. While things are different today, establishing patterns of rest can remind us that the Lord is truly in control of all things and that our contributions are welcomed but not necessary for His will to be done.

Second, rest is part of God’s plan.

In the Ten Commandments, when God commands His people to rest, He includes a specific list of those who should not do any work on the Sabbath. Essentially, it includes everyone. We see the rhythms of rest throughout nature. There is no animal known to us that does not need rest. Even the ground needs rest; farmers let fields lie dormant for seasons, so they’ll continue to produce in the future. Rest is hardwired into creation.

Finally, rest is a reminder that we are truly human.

You are not a robot that exists only to complete work. Nor are you God, an all-powerful being that doesn’t need rest. Rather, you are the Lord’s special creation for whom he cares deeply. He rested so that you will take a break. If done well, Sabbath can fuel our generosity, providing the clarity to see that we are not our work. Our resources can help provide rest to others.

It's what Jesus did for us. Our spiritual Sabbath is grounded in Christ, who encouraged us in Matthew 11:28,29,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

As we discussed previously, work is a gift from the Lord, something in which we can delight. But we will not gain God’s affection by working harder. What you do is not your identity. You are a child of God.