One of the Ten Commandments is to keep the Sabbath holy, but modern society has chosen to ignore this with terrible consequences.
In 1793, the French revolutionaries decided to do away with the calendar as Europe had known it. They wanted a “rational” calendar not based on the state-church that had supported the royal family and supposed divine right of kings.
They decided that each day would have 10 hours, 100 minutes per hour and that months would be divided into three 10-day weeks.
This system deliberately ignored all Christian influences on the calendar, particularly Sundays. With only one day of rest in 10, however, people began to complain of fatigue and increasing health problems. Some reports began to come in that even working animals like draft horses were collapsing in the streets.
The system only lasted about a year and half before reverting back to the traditional, Christian calendar.
We Are the Burnout Generation
While we adhere to seven-day weeks, studies are finding that many Americans spend almost as many hours at their job as if they were working 10 days straight.
About 40 percent of Americans say that they put in at least 50 hours a week, though some work much more. Businesses like Amazon have employees who regularly put in 80 hour workweeks. On-call medical professionals often have to work 10-12 days without a break and put in extremely long hours.
Despite exhaustive studies that show how overwork increases risks of stroke and other serious consequences for not only our health but also others’ safety, most attempts to shorten employees’ hours have ended in failure.
Even when we are on our weekends, many have packed chore lists or social schedules trying to maintain relationships and basic living conditions that we simply don’t have the time or energy for during the week.
In our frenzied, results-oriented culture with its relentless push for optimal productivity, we’ve forgotten how to rest.
Now the internet and book stands are starting to be populated with reading about a phenomenon that is spreading with frightening speed: burnout. While secular think-tanks try to find solutions for the epidemic that is now sweeping even through the younger generations, God has already given his people the answer.
Perhaps it’s time we stopped and paid attention.
Remembering the Lost Blue Days
“Every Sunday, all day long,” David Wilkerson described in one of his sermons about the sabbath, “we had to refrain from doing anything lively, such as playing ball or romping around. We weren't even allowed to use scissors to cut paper for school. Our parents constantly reminded us, ‘This is the Lord's day, and it's a day of rest.’ And so we kept it holy.
“In those days, ‘blue laws’ were in effect. This meant no businesses were allowed to operate on Sunday, except vital ones such as hospitals or gas stations. Very few stores were open at all.
“Today, however, Sunday is no longer a hallowed day. On the contrary, it has become the biggest retail shopping day of the week. More money is spent on Sunday than on any other day. If you drive by any suburban mall on a Sunday afternoon, you'll see the parking lot absolutely packed.
“Blue laws are now a thing of the past.”
David goes on to discuss how in Nehemiah 13:15-21 the prophet had to forcibly reinstitute Sabbath rest among the Israelites. To many modern readers, this seems unnecessarily harsh and legalistic. Why make a huge fuss about whether or not people worked or shopped during the Sabbath? What if people needed to make money or get groceries?
For most people these days, the idea of taking an entire day off to do nothing except hang out with God and be unproductive seems impossible.
However, imagine someone sitting down to lunch with you and saying, “I’m really busy. I don’t have time to talk to my spouse anymore. In fact, I haven’t seen my kids in the last year or so. No, no, they still live at the house. I just have a lot of work to do. You know how it is.”
Would we sit across from them and nod sympathetically? Hopefully not.
We Were Made for the Sabbath
Pastor and theologian A. J. Swoboda has seen his fair share of burnout in the church, the one place where people should be finding rest and yet only seems to contribute to our overload. However, we don’t take well to being told that we should rest. “I preached for three weeks on the Sabbath, and I don’t think we ever had more people leave the church.
“When you talk about the Sabbath, it steps on every idol we value as Americans. It steps on affluence. It steps on productivity. It steps on popularity. It steps on all of that stuff and crucifies it.”
He notes, “For the first time, I saw that our church culture actually celebrates people who break the fourth commandment, and our culture incentives people to ignore what God has asked us to remember.
“I hate to say this, but we don’t actually believe in the Ten Commandments. We believe in nine commandments and one really strong suggestion.”
What if God knows what he’s doing when he commands rest at least one day out of seven? What if he actually has the wisdom to know what our bodies and minds need in order to function well? What if he loves us as a father and really wants to have our attention at least one day of the week?
Could any of us say that our wife or husband or children’s request to see us, spend time with us, once a week is too demanding?
We worship the inventor of the weekend, and he made us to live our best life when we start our week by resting in his presence.