Another Labor Day is celebrated by not laboring. This might seem ironic. Of course, while many of us demand a holiday of rest, we simultaneously demand others to work for us! Like those Christians who are angry that people are working on Sundays, yet expect to stuff their faces with bacon and avocado toast.
In order for some people to rest, others must work. We used to call this slavery, now we call it capitalism. Don’t judge.
The irony of the day might point to the apparent irony of God’s commands in Scripture. Sometimes He orders humans to work; in the garden, in the fields, in the temple, in their neighbors’ lives. Yet this same God also instructs us to rest. He tells Israel to rest on the 7th day. Jesus beckons those tired of religion, of struggling to simply survive, let alone please God. “I will give you rest,” He promises.
Well now what?! Work? Don’t work? Give up? This question might be the fundamental question among Christians, that may even divide Christians.
When God told the Israelites to rest on the 7th day, He really meant it. Work for 6 and rest on the 7th. But if you think about it, it points to a greater rest. Think about how insane it was for the nation of Israel to actually do nothing for a whole day. It had rained all week so they couldn’t harvest anything but Saturday is sunny. If they didn’t harvest then, it would all spoil! They had enemies always on every side. Were their enemies just going to take a break on Saturday as well? Yet God said, “rest.” Why? Because He would provide! And sure enough, He did. Yet doesn’t that point to the fact that God was providing all along in the first place!? Knowing that the Lord would take care of them without them doing anything definitely compelled them to see that while they toiled the other days, their success all along was in God’s hands. Knowing this should have definitely freed them from obsessing over their failures or feeling as if their future depended on their work.
The same goes for God’s Israel today in Jesus Christ. He has removed our sin and conquered death. His people will be victorious because Jesus has won the victory. On the 6th day, Jesus completed the work of our salvation, and on the 7th day, He rested so that we can rest too. God provides even our righteousness! So the writer of Hebrews can say that sinners have been welcomed into God’s rest. Not just one day a week, but all days.
Does that mean don’t work anymore? Not at all. Get after it. Try your best. But we can do it from a position of rest. We aren’t afraid of failing anymore. We don’t actually carry the burden of our sins or even our mortality! We are freed to go forward. We can work hard at serving our neighbor and being good, knowing that Jesus has and is working harder. We aren’t living on a tightrope. We can dance as we walk because Jesus catches us when we fall.
We can also actually rest. The world does not depend on us. We don’t have to feel guilty thinking we will fall behind, we will let someone down, and progress will be halted. Knowing our past is paid for and our future is secure, we can actually enjoy the moment and be present in the present.
Try it. You’re free to fail. God’s got this.