A Reflection on Hebrews 4
“For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his (vs 10).”
Rest is both a ‘then’ and ‘now’ promise.
Part of this promise of rest is for eternity. As a Jesus-follower, you will enter his rest for the expanse of time outside of time.
But part of this promise is for right now, today.
By following the law of Moses, the do’s and don’ts commonly ascribed to Christianity, we are working. Trying to punch in the password to heaven by punching in and out of a clock. The more we do, the more we deserve heaven.
However, Jesus came to nullify and expand the law of Moses. We aren’t qualified by following the do’s and don’ts. We are qualified by God’s choice and love and protection. We are qualified by accepting our adoption into the global family with the most cool Father.
Therefore, we cannot work for our salvation. We can only receive it. And therefore, not pausing and resting during our life on earth will get us nowhere but greedy, separated and burnt out. And maybe incredibly rich. But it will probably not profit our inner contentment and identity.
We are not designed to work all the time. We are not designed to craft our own lives with a ten step plan and applaudable work ethic. Unless the first, middle, and last steps are to rest. I feel like a lot of the anxiety, depression and burnout we see today is from this socially constructed dialogue that more productivity is better. From filling our time. From always being available. From doing good things, worthwhile things, but expecting it to add to our worth. And then never ceasing to do them.
But with the Jesus worldview, our worth does not come from what we plan or what we produce. Nothing we accomplish on earth is going to add to our value. Our value is innate and separate from our productivity. You are enough.
It is the great privilege of the Jesus worldview that we are commanded to rest. We are to approach work and success and productivity through the lens of rest. To balance all the things, to realize we cannot get it all done, to understand that we are enough, to take comfort in that God is still working to accomplish when we aren’t: this is our birthright.
God himself rested from his work on the seventh day.
This is not to say that you must legalistically remove yourself from responsibility every Sunday. Most people’s responsibilities – whether it be with community, family or career, or the combination of all three – will not allow that. Instead, we are to approach each of the seven days in a week through the lens of rest. To make sure we are getting enough sleep. To make sure we are dividing our time as equally as we can between the jobs that require completion and the humans in our lives that require love and attention. To not say ‘yes’ to all that we could. To make sure our worth isn’t coming from how productive we are. It takes trust in a higher Being to rest from our work.
It is easy to have your own back. It is easy to trust yourself to get every task done. But it is not easy to let yourself relax when you know all your jobs are not finished. It is not easy to slow down for a breath when you are used to sprinting all day every day.
Part of the reason why God let the Israelites wander through the desert for forty years instead of immediately bringing them to the Promised Land is so that a more complete rest could be given to everyone later. It would make no sense for God to continue to promise rest if the Israelites were already in it. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God (vs 9).” While the Israelites in the desert were wandering and grumbling, they were looking at their immediate circumstance in a specific point of time. God was looking at the scope of humanity over a breadth of time.
It is actually disobedience to claim to follow Jesus and to not rest.
God set the example and rested from his work. Think of how productive he could be if he never rested. But he chose to rest.
And we, with much less capacity for work, are to follow that example. Work is not to define us. What we accomplish is not to define us. What we create is not to define us. Human work, accomplishment, and creation is to be a by-product of our identity, an outward expression of our individual uniqueness and enoughness. Not an altar unto it.
And if we cannot release work to spend time with people, recharge ourselves, sleep, or even clip our toenails, we are working for identity rather than working from identity.
To work for identity must be a common human bend. Because we are instructed to “make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following [the Israelites’] example of disobedience (vs 11).”
That verse is immediately followed by a description about how the word of God is sharper than a double-edged sword, that it is so precise is can separate soul and spirit, thoughts and attitudes. And we will have to give account to God, before whose sight we are laid bare.
I do not believe we will have to explain our every action on earth. We are not DO-ings.
I do believe, however, that we will have to explain our motives. We are BE-ings.
What is the purpose of you working so hard? What do you accomplish by neglecting relationships or experiences to finish your to-do list? What do you prove by never taking time off or only getting five hours of sleep?
How do you approach work, whether it be in an office, institution, shop, worksite or home? Are you working for approval? Are you working for worth? Are you working for identity?
Or are you working from a place of rest? Are you aware that everything will mysteriously be accomplished when you allow yourself to be interrupted for the things that Jesus valued? Are you convinced that whatever you accomplish does not have the power to add to your worth as a human being? Are you willing to see that a friend or family member is more important than being paid overtime?
Work is not intrinsically bad. A call to rest is not a call to laziness. It is not an excuse to begin holding our responsibilities with sluggish hands. Work is necessary. Work is an essential to the human experience. Work, in whatever form that intersects are your personal joy and the world’s need, is required of you. But a job is not to rule you. Work is not to define you.
Jesus gives us the privilege of rest. He gives us the privilege of a worth unconnected to productivity. Break culture and step into your privilege. Rest.