The word “sabbath” simply means rest, and God made his intentions for mankind pretty clear: we’re to live productive lives for six days and then take one off – a sabbath.
Much of what is written in the Old Testament about the sabbath has to do with ceremonial laws and special holidays, all of which is obsolete for New Testament Christians. No, Sunday is not the new Sabbath. For Jews, it’s still Saturday (technically Friday evening until Saturday evening). For Christians, we’re not under any sabbath law, but we do get to live by the principle of the sabbath, which is that there should be a rhythm our minds and bodies get into. Work and be productive, then take a break.
For the Jewish people, God revealed it in this way through Moses:
No working on the Sabbath; keep it holy just as GOD, your God, commanded you. Work six days, doing everything you have to do, but the seventh day is a Sabbath, a Rest Day—no work: not you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, your ox, your donkey (or any of your animals), and not even the foreigner visiting your town. That way your servants and maids will get the same rest as you.
~ Deuteronomy 5:12 MSG
You don’t have to get legalistic about it. I can remember, when I was younger, hearing Christians criticize businesses that opened on Sunday. Often, they’d have this conversation over lunch after church, at a restaurant, where their patronage required someone else to work. It’s not about a list of rules of what you can or cannot do.
The principle of the sabbath was given to you for your good. It was never intended to be a burdensome requirement. It was always meant to give you rest and cause you to flourish.
In our current day and age, this principle of the sabbath is vitally important because we’re constantly hustling. We never stop. We work and work and work. Then when work is over we spend busy, crazy time running our kids all over the country doing things that aren’t work, but aren’t exactly restful either. And when we do catch some downtime, we often try to get ahead. We’re checking our phones, our messages, our email, and our to do lists.
I’m not encouraging you to feel guilty about being busy. We have plenty of guilt as it is. I’m simply giving you permission. You get to rest! God wants you to rest! It’s okay to take naps! It’s right to take a day off every week.
When you live in a healthy rhythm, taking a day off to refuel and recharge, you’ll be far more effective and productive in the other six days. It’s just the way God made it. And he made it that way because he loves you!