illustration by Jean Primrose
The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath. Mark 2.27
I’ve been thinking a lot about the sabbath lately, and what it really means to stop. Perhaps you may have guessed that from yesterday’s post. Both in this section of Mark, as well as the 12th chapter of Matthew, Jesus confronts the legal fundamentalists (or rather they confront him) about sabbath-breaking and sabbath-keeping.
There’s a lot to be said about those passages, and many have said it better than I could anyway. According to Jesus, it’s not about the avoidance of any kind of work at all (one could pull one’s donkey out of a hole, for example). As I think about sabbath, the aspect of it that stands out to me the most is economic, and specifically profit.
I’ve already made the decision that I won’t work at a place of employment on the sabbath. It was a hard decision, especially when one is not in a position to be turning down work. And I wonder how many of my applications for employment have been turned down because of that.
That decision was made quite a while ago, and for the most part once it was made, it wasn’t hard to keep. Making the decision was the difficult part. Deciding that there would be one day a week that I wouldn’t profit from my work, which set the day apart from the rest of the week, that was hard.
And now it seems I’m at a new crossroads in my sabbath-thinking. If I’ve decided that I won’t work, what does it mean for me to engage in an activity that depends upon the work of another person? I don’t know that I’d quite say it forces them to work – but maybe it does. I’m not ready to make a decision yet, but it is something that I’m thinking about, and considering how I might further orient my life around keeping the sabbath.
Without work on the sabbath, there is time. Time to think, time to be. The space that is normally consumed by our work, our errands, and all our running around, is finally left wide open. And when I think about how much we all seem to crave more time, I think about another prayer from Prayers from the Ark, “The Prayer of the Ox”, that beast of burden:
Dear God, give me time.
Men are always so driven!
Make them understand that I can never hurry.
Give me time to eat.
Give me time to plod.
Give me time to sleep.
Give me time to think.
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