But there are also times where we are supposed to quietly and privately meditate on God’s Word and his works (Psalms 119:15, 145:5) and to rest our physical bodies so that we don’t become weary (Proverbs 30:1; Mark 6:31). Going all the way back to mankind’s creation, God rested from his creation (even though God doesn’t need to rest) as a pattern for man (Genesis 2:2–3 c.f. Exodus 20:9–11, 23:12, 34:21, Deuteronomy 5:13–14; Mark 2:27), not wanting him to work seven days a week. God tells us to be still and know that he is God (Psalms 46:10).
And we have the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who went away alone to get some rest from the crowds and to pray (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:45–47) and who instructed us to pray to the Father in secret (Matthew 6:6).
The God of Productivity
A recent article made some interesting points concerning how to handle our downtime due to the current coronavirus situation. The author, Laura Cerbus, notes an all-too-common reaction of anxiety and nervousness, a desire to be busy to distract us from our current situation.
Instead, I cling to the god of productivity, hoping to demonstrate my value and secure my success.
In our present moment, it feels inevitable that if we allow our minds to rest, to wander where they will, we’ll be flooded with fear and anxiety. Better to keep busy, better to have something to distract us from the present difficulties and future unknowns . . .
Yet some of it, I have to admit, is my own weakness exposed. It’s all too clear that I resist boredom and rest. Instead, I cling to the god of productivity, hoping to demonstrate my value and secure my success. The current quarantine has only heightened my resistance and raised my expectations. I’ve got more time; more must be done.
In this way, I’m simply a fish in water. This world, our culture particularly, idolizes productivity and success. Rather than understanding people as intrinsically valuable, we think that we must create that value.
Cerbus brought to mind the words of Jesus on two separate occasions. The passage in Luke 10 where Martha was busy serving and asked Jesus to scold Mary for not helping, but Jesus replied with the clear implication that it was better to sit at his feet and listen to him than to be busy serving him a meal (Luke 10:40–42). It wasn’t her desire to serve, her diligence, or her love for Jesus that was lacking. The issue which he mildly rebuked Martha for was being too busy “doing” and not stopping to listen to and be with him.
At the Sermon on the Mount message in Matthew 6:25–34, Jesus told the crowds not to be anxious about anything.
At the Sermon on the Mount message in Matthew 6:25–34, Jesus told the crowds not to be anxious about anything. That same predisposition towards worry plagues us today. And it may be heightened in the current uncertain times we now find ourselves in. But we are to meditate and remember that it is God who is in control of our lives, and as Christians we have been promised that God loves us and cares for us. Our anxiety often comes from a lack of faith in God and his promises.
As the Apostle Paul stated in Philippians 4:6, this anxiety needs to be met with prayer and an attitude of thanksgiving. Rather than focusing on what could go wrong, we are to consciously consider what has “gone right” for us. We are loved by God and called children of God (1 John 3:1)! And the end result once we place our cares before God is that “
the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). The author strives to impart the importance of learning the lesson of biblical, purposeful rest and of casting our cares on Jesus (1 Peter 5:7).
A Little Slumber
Of course a word of caution needs to be mentioned here, we are not to overly prolong our periods of rest to the point that we neglect essential duties. Taking time to pause and reflect and meditate on God and his works and Word are not to be stretched into a season or pattern of laziness (Proverbs 6:9-11). When God originally created all things, (and also set the pattern for mankind), only 1/7 of that time was “downtime.”
Scripture is quite clear that we are to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands”
Scripture is quite clear that we are to “
aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11) and passages such as 2 Thessalonians 3:10–12 and 1 Timothy 5:8 tell us to work, not be idle, and to provide for our families. We are frequently exhorted in Scripture to care for the needs of others, show hospitality, and donate our time and resources for the sake of the gospel (Romans 12:13; 2 Corinthians 9:6–8, Hebrews 13:16). Paul in Ephesians 4:28 even admonishes those who used to steal for a living to instead work so that they can provide for their own needs and have resources left over to help out others. And we are twice told to be redeeming the time or, as some versions state, making the best use of our time (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5).
But if we are properly following Christ and his commands, we will not become lazy, yet we will have some time set aside for rest, meditation, and prayer. We know that we have been forewarned in Scripture that it is possible to become so consumed with doing things for Christ that we can actually leave our first love of Christ (Revelation 2:2–4). All of these thoughts appear to be on the author’s mind, and in her conclusion she also mentioned some basic biblical principles that often go unnoticed:
We can give up the false guilt that our culture puts on those who aren’t producing anything.
[W]e can give up the false guilt that our culture puts on those who aren’t producing anything. We can rest in the love of the Father, who created and redeemed us, not because of what we are capable of doing, but because of his love.
We know that usually God uses people “
who are not wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” and takes weak and foolish vessels and uses them to stop any boasting on our part (1 Corinthians 1:26–29). We recognize that even our faith is a gift from God, not manufactured by our own resources (Ephesians 2:8–9). And when we stop for a moment and think of our salvation, we can rest in the love of the Father, because of the finished work of Christ, and because of the following promise he gave us:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)