When my husband travels around the country, he often asks people to raise their hands if they are in favor of the Ten Commandments. The vote is unanimous: people–regardless of political affiliation, denomination, or geographic region–believe the world would be a better place if everyone lived within the framework of the Ten Commandments.
One of the hardest commandments to keep is the last–to not covet. It’s hard because in large part it seems to be commanding an inward attitude. Yet in the reality of our daily lives, we find ourselves rarely content. If only we had more power, money, or possessions, then we would be satisfied. But, of course, we are like the old woman who swallowed the fly–our desires just get bigger and bigger. To quote that famous theologian, Mick Jagger, “We can’t get no satisfaction.”
This coveting problem has an insidious side effect: overwork. To get the power, money, or possessions we desire, we stay late at the office, take on a second job, or answer e-mails at night and on the weekends. Americans have less vacation time than any other Western country, and yet we don’t even use the vacation time we earn. Even when we do manage to take a vacation, we check e-mails and answer calls.
Now, don’t get me wrong: a solid work ethic is a good thing. After all, the Sabbath commandment is told in the context of six days of work. But like all good things, it can become twisted. Food is good, but overeating can lead to all sorts of health problems. Eventually too much can kill us.
Few would argue that a seven-day workweek, year after exhausting year, can damage our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. But its effects on the community are less recognized. One of the reasons that our society is currently so contentious is that we no longer stop. We are bone-tired. Drained and often sleep-deprived, we are impatient with loved ones and less than gracious with our neighbors.
Fortunately, Scripture offers a solution to these seemingly intractable problems. The answer is found in the fourth commandment–the one that tells us to close the computer, ignore the in-box, and lay down our anxieties one day out of seven. And it does not only tell us to rest. It says that we should help our over-scheduled children rest. Single parents. Minimum wage earners. Immigrants. Even animals and the land need fallow times to renew and recoup.
Here’s the crux of the problem: each time we ignore the Sabbath invitation, we show that, deep down, we trust ourselves more than God. Instead of following our Father’s firm but loving rules, we make up our own. We believe we can be on the go, 24/7, without any significant collateral damage. We think we know better than God.
Refusing to follow the crowd can be a good thing, but here’s what I’ve come to believe: following God is better. I’d rather rely on the Almighty than myself. I’d rather hear the Word than my own words. And I’d rather take shelter in God than take every blow on my own chin. Our Father really does know best. Doing life Thy Way, rather than my way, is always the right choice.