For many people in the world today, work is a necessary evil. They see it as something they have to do so they can pay for the stuff they really want to do: watch movies, enjoy their hobbies, spend time with friends, travel. This is what we might call the “TGIF” mentality.
We’ve seen this week that the Bible’s teaching on work points us 180° in the opposite direction. Work isn’t something we have do to so that we can get on with our life; work is our life. Good works are literally what we’ve been created for (Ephesians 2:10).
An important question is raised by all of this: what about rest and leisure? Are we ever allowed to take time and relax? Is watching a movie or spending a day at the beach even allowed in the Christian life?
Common-sense wisdom would suggest the answer is “yes.” Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and if we want to make it for the long haul, we need to pace ourselves.
We also see an instructive pattern in the Old Covenant. Taking one day in seven to rest was a command (Exodus 20:8-11), and there were several other layers of divinely-instituted rest woven into Israel’s life. (See Exodus 34:21-24 & Leviticus 25:1-22 for examples.) Work was to be sustained by regular rest.
In the New Covenant, we are not bound to observe the Sabbaths and Feasts (Colossians 2:16-17), and yet we’d be foolish to ignore the wisdom of these patterns God established for His people. After all, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for … training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). One of the ways that the Old Testament Scriptures equip us for every good work is by showing us the importance of regular rest.
However, it bears repeating again that work is not something we need in order to enjoy rest; rather, rest is something we need in order to be able to give ourselves more fully to our work.
I recently read an article in which renowned theologian J.I. Packer wrote of his enjoyment for light reading—especially detective novels. And the question that Packer himself asked is, “[Should I] repent of time wasted in…light reading?” His answer was a clear “no”: “If overloaded academic and literary people never read for relaxation, their brains will break…Light reading is not for killing time (that’s ungodly), but for refitting the mind to tackle life’s heavy tasks (that’s the Protestant work ethic, and it’s true).” 1https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/j-packer-reads-mystery-novels-defense-light-reading/
I believe that Packer hits the nail on the head, and his statement about killing time is one we should thoughtfully apply to ourselves. Do we use rest and hobbies and leisure to kill time? Or, do we understand that killing time is ungodly (see Ephesians 5:16-16), and instead use our rest and hobbies and leisure, as needed, to rejuvenate ourselves so that we can get back into the game?
If we are truly devoted to good works (Titus 3:8, 14), we can say “Thank God it’s Friday.” But we’ll say it genuinely, and with perspective. We’ll say it because we’re looking forward to using our weekend both for rest and for good works. And we’ll also be thanking God when it’s Monday, and we get to go back to work for the glory of God.