Having written a series on the Sabbath in the past, and given an opportunity to teach on the Sabbath in the near future, I thought it would be worth reflecting on an article I read this past week by Tim Keller on Wisdom and Sabbath Rest.
I would encourage reading the whole article, as there’s lot of food for thought, but his conclusion neatly summarizes his point:
The purpose of Sabbath is not simply to rejuvenate yourself in order to do more production, nor is it the pursuit of pleasure. The purpose of Sabbath is to enjoy your God, life in general, what you have accomplished in the world through his help, and the freedom you have in the gospel—the freedom from slavery to any material object or human expectation. The Sabbath is a sign of the hope that we have in the world to come.
That is a helpful reminder regarding the purpose of intentionally taking a break from our “worldly employments and recreations” (Westminster Short Catechism). God has given it to us to enjoy what he has made. Keller also helpfully articles the importance of Sabbath rest in a world consumed with productivity and overworking. It was a reminder to me that overworking is as much a violation of what God has given us as are other, more common designators of breaking the Sabbath command.
Notwithstanding these helpful contributions, I felt like Keller missed or ignored several important elements of the Sabbath discussion. He give short shrift in the article to the resting of the Sabbath to be from work and to corporate worship. He briefly mentions going to church on Sunday as part of a Sabbath rest, but it seems to me that regardless of the other elements, our participation in the spiritual rest offered by corporate worship needs not less emphasis, but more in our current evangelical scene. That’s not to say that Keller thinks corporate worship is unimportant. I’m sure that he does. But it seems like that worship ought to hold a more prominent place in our reflections on the Sabbath.
Additionally, he dismisses any church guidelines on how we keep the Sabbath. I fully understand why he’s dismissive. I do believe there are many in the Reformed world who are uncharitable towards those who hold a different view of Sabbath observance. And I’m sure that there are communities that try to enforce one set of views on it in an ungracious way. But on the other hand, if the church is to help its members apply Scripture to every area of life, doesn’t it mean at a minimum giving some guidance on how Sabbath-keeping should look? Probably Keller just means that such guidance shouldn’t take the form of overly rigid rules. But nonetheless it seems that we ought to be concerned to wrestle together with how the Sabbath can be observed, not that we will always all agree, but nevertheless encouraging one another to reassess our practices in light of the implications of Scripture.Read More