I’m working on a short teaching series I’ll be leading this fall – it’s on the subject of Sabbath. I was reading in Abraham Joshua Heschel’s beautiful book The Sabbath: It’s meaning for modern man and came across this quotation, which fits nicely both with what Jesus has to say and with the broad message that I would hope to convey. Heschel highlights Aristotle’s view that “we need relaxation, because we cannot work continually. Relaxation, then is not an end.”
But Heschel turns this on its head when he replies:
To the biblical mind, however, labor is the means toward an end, and the Sabbath as a day of rest, as a day of abstaining from toil, is not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labour. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life. Man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work. “Last in creation, first in intention,” the Sabbath is the “end of the creation of heaven and earth.”
The Sabbath is not for the sake of weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.
Yes, our weekday work and lives are fundamental to our human identity – but all of our weekday working and living aims at something more. Our lives aim at a fulness that we cannot accomplish but can only receive. Hence our need to pause, to rest, and to stop trying to achieve something. Sabbath rest is a taste of the rest and delight that God in Christ has given and will finally give.