The Sabbath Is Real

A reading for Monday, January 30, 2017: Deuteronomy 5:12-15.

Sabbath is as ancient as the faith itself, coming to the people in nothing less than the Ten Commandments.

The Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann offers that from the beginning sabbath was a form of resistance. “Sabbath, in the first instance, is not about worship. It is about work stoppage. It is about withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharaoh, the refusal to let one's life be defined by production and consumption and the endless pursuit of private well-being.”

Sabbath is about life and health and well-being for a community. Not just private-well being as Brueggemann points out, but the well-being of an entire culture and way of dwelling together. Those who ignore sabbath and use the time to get ahead of others are not loving their neighbors as God would demand. It was believed from the beginning of sabbath that those that ignored sabbath were trying to outdo their neighbors or hoard more resources than their neighbors, and the ancient Hebrew way of life prohibits such individualism because it defiles the sense of mutual well-being and community life.

Almost nobody observes sabbath any longer, and we wonder why we have little sense of community and mutuality towards our neighbors. Could it be that our problems are not just economic or social, but are essentially spiritual? I wonder if our attitudes towards those that are different from us would change is we observed sabbath as integral to life and health and community?


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