Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Sabbath, Work, Service, and Worship

Posted by BrianJ on January 18, 2010

A few quick thoughts from Sunday School on how the Sabbath helps us balance work, service, and worship.The first three chapters of Moses focus on God’s work—we often focus on The Creation, but I think those chapters are really about God’s ongoing work; i.e., his “work and his glory” (Moses 1:39). In fact, based on the frequency with which the terms are used, chapter 1 seems to be entirely about three things: work, words, and glory.

What I find interesting is that Mankind goes through a little switch-a-roo in regards to work. Borrowing from a few scripture sources (and citing none of them!), we learn that God created the universe but does not serve it. Indeed, in Abraham we read that all the different creations “obeyed” and in Moses we read that the creation fulfills God’s purposes. In other words, the creations work for God, not the other way around.

We also learn that God was helped by others—perhaps us, probably us?—to create the earth. And, just as it works for God, the creation serves Mankind: Adam and Eve enjoy the benefits of the Garden without really having to work at it. Not so after the Fall. God informs Adam and Eve that hereafter they’ll have to work by the “sweat of the brow” for sustenance: the earth used to work for them, but now they work for it.

With all this work comes a danger: the earth is never satisfied. We toil and labor and there’s always more work to be done. The earth will consume every ounce of effort you have—and then some—and still demand more. Whether in the form of an actual idol we pray to, or just a job we can’t leave, we run the risk of worshiping the work of our own hands.

Enter the Sabbath. Why did God observe a Sabbath? Perhaps one reason is just to show that he could. By taking a day of rest, during which nothing was created, God might be saying, “See, the universe is huge and has all sorts of ‘needs’—a  new species here, a planet that needs steadying there, whatever—but I have other things I want to do.” Okay, maybe that’s being a bit flippant, putting words in God’s mouth, but hopefully you get my point.

The Sabbath may serve the same purpose for us. Take a day to rest from our labors—not in the sense that we do nothing, of course, but more in the sense that we don’t do things we “have to do.” Yes, the yard needs to be mowed and the car should be washed and the report at work is due soon and so on. Observing the Sabbath might be just the opportunity we need to push back at the earth and say, “No! I may work/serve you in some respect, but I don’t worship you.”

3 Responses to “Sabbath, Work, Service, and Worship”

  1. Robert C. said

    Brian, I really like these thoughts. Might we way that spiritual “needs” are given a kind of priority by the temporal cycle that mandates that all other needs are postponed and subordinated according to this cycle.

    Also, to relate this to the (probably distracting!) conversation we’re having regarding Ranciere, and my recent RS/MP lesson notes, it seems we can also think about the Sabbath in terms of a priority given to equality relative to inequality. That is, in Deut 5:14-15 we read about the slaves/servants resting on the Sabbath, and the remembrance of the exodus where Israel’s subordinate slavery to Egypt ended. In this sense, socioeconomic inequalities, and other forms of inequality are disrupted by the invariant temporal cycle that takes precedence over all other cycles (business cycles, seasonal weather and agricultural cycles, politcal cycles, etc.)….

  2. Robert C. said

    Oh, also, I remember reading about the Hebrew word for “work” being related to the word “king” (mlk). In this sense, ceasing from work, is also ceasing from the hierarchical relationships in this world. I’m hoping to look into this thought more when I have a bit of time.

  3. KirkC said

    BrianJ, I love this last line, “No! I may work/serve you in some respect, but I don’t worship you.”

    How often do we hear:
    I would love to go to church but_____.
    I would close my store on Sunday but______.
    That works in scripture, but in real life I have to_____ on Sunday.

    As Paul says, we are all a slave to something. We prove what we are a slave to by the actions we take on the sabbath. In fact, in the Old Testament, to break the Sabbath=death. To keep the Sabbath=Sanctification (Ex. 31:13-14). In a very real sense, I think this is true for us today Spiritually.

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