Work has been around from the beginning of time. God worked for six days creating the universe, the world, and everything in them. He also gave man work to do even before the fall and curse. And in addition to man’s work in taking dominion of the earth he is to put the creation to work.
In the beginning, in addition to instituting work, God set a pattern that work should not be done continuously. The work that we do should be broken up with regular periods of rest. Rest is not just an inconvenient necessity that is the result of getting tired, because God doesn’t tire and yet he rested the seventh day after creating. Instead, it is a pattern by which we acknowledge our dependence upon the Lord.
Rest and Scripture
In Scripture there are many examples of rest. Let’s look at a few of them.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
We see that the pattern of resting every seventh day was established by God. And it didn’t just apply to people, but also to animals as well.
But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Leviticus 25:4,5
Not only are we and our animals to rest, but the land is to rest. Continuous work is not consistent with the way God set things up to work. If anything works, including animals or land, then it must rest.
Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed. Exodus 23:11,12
Apparently one reason that God wants us to rest is so that we may be refreshed from the toil of our work. God doesn’t need refreshing, he is the source of refreshing, but because we are fallible and effected by the curse of sin, we need times of rest for refreshing.
The source of true rest is the Lord Jesus Christ. We will never find true rest apart from him. Hebrews 4 also speaks of the coming Sabbath Rest for God’s people, when they will rest from all the toil of this life.
Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.
The principle of resting helps cultivate in our hearts a trust in the Lord and confidence in his provision. Sometimes we may be tempted to think that there are times we need to work and can’t afford to rest. Well, I believe one of the reasons God wants us to rest is to be reminded that we are dependent on him for provision, not in our own strength and ability to work.
Rest and Creation
Now, when we look at untended creation, it obviously doesn’t rest from being worked by man because it hasn’t been. But I believe we still see the same principle of rest at ‘work’ 🙂
For one thing, from what I have observed in creation few, if any, living creatures work all the time. Most animals work either during the day or night and rest during the other. Most plants grow during one part of the season, and seemingly rest during the other.
Also, we see the detremental effects of man overworking the land without rest. Erosion. Decrease in fertility. Buildup of disease in the soil. These all provide evidence that a lack of rest is not a good thing, and therefore, not what God desires.
Rest Doesn’t Mean Neglect
Now, I think I need to clarify here what I believe Biblical rest means. We can probably all agree that the Bible clearly states rest to mean stopping work. As we see in the passages above, when God says to rest on the Sabbath he goes on to explain that no work shall be done on it. However, what exactly does that look like? Does it mean that we shouldn’t get out of bed? Or cook meals? Does it mean that we shouldn’t feed our animals?
Well, let’s first clarify what is meant by work. Work is the application of energy and strength in utilizing available resources for the production of desired action or fruits. Work involves effort, and utilizes and escalates the productivity and fruitfulness of land, animals, and people. Rest, therefore, would mean ceasing from the increased effort and application of energy. This keeps the productivity at a sustainable level and allows for the refreshing of everything that was working.
We must realize, however, that rest does not mean that we should cease from all effort or activity. If we stopped doing anything and just sat around any extended period of rest would detrimental to ourselves and everything we are responsible for. We have talked multiple times about how God gave man the job of working and caring f0r the land. I believe, therefore, that rest gives us a time of refreshing from the toil of our work, but we should still care for the needs of our land, animals, and family.
Rest means that we cease from working creation, but not from caring for it. Resting does not justify neglect.
When God created and rested on the seventh day he ceased from all the work he had done, but he obviously didn’t cease from caring for and maintaining it. Without the care of God all of creation would fall apart. Through him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17) and have their being (Revelation 4:11). Therefore, in following his pattern, we need to rest from work, but not neglect the care of what we are responsible for.
Christ rebuked the religious leaders of Israel when they tried to condemn his caring for and healing people on the Sabbath.
“Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?” Luke 13:14,15
So while it is important to apply the principle of rest in our farms, we must recognize that rest does not equal neglect. That means, while we rest from our work every seventh day we still get out of bed in the morning, feed our animals, and eat our meals.
Characteristics of Rest:
In order to honor God’s principle of rest, how can we begin to apply it to the way that we farm? Well, here are a few practical suggestions.
-Provide periods of rest for the land: When we work our land, then we need to let it rest. So in our planning, we need to set aside times where it is not worked. Where we are not managing it for greatest productivity and harvesting what it produces. This can mean that we let it lay ‘fallow’ at least every seventh year. Or maybe another way would be to let at least a seventh of your land lay fallow every year. Of course, if you let it lay fallow, I don’t believe this means you shouldn’t still care for it. Just because we don’t work it doesn’t mean that we should let it grow up with a crop of invasive weeds that spread noxious seeds all over the place. I believe that mowing your land, or even growing a green manure crop for the benefit of the soil during the fallow year could all be an application of caring for your soil while letting it rest. However, anything that takes from the soil or makes it exert energy, such as grazing it or plowing it, would be working it and probably wouldn’t be recommended.
-Allow for periods of rest for your animals: In order to make sure our animals rest, then we need to identify the ways and areas in which we work them. It’s hard to tell whether just feeding out animals for meat would be considered work. But it seems pretty clear that managing for increased production of products such as milk and eggs, or utilizing the strength of draft animals would be considered work. These are the things, therefore, that we should try to let them have a rest from. Just trying to get the most milk for the longest period of time, or trying squeeze the most eggs our of our chickens in a given year by putting lights in their coop might be straying from the desire to give them rest. God gives us rest, and we should desire to do the same with the animals he has given us to rule over.
-Rest one day in seven: If we want to know how often we should rest, we have but to look to the example and commandment of God. In the Ten Commandments God commands that we should rest one day in seven, because he himself set us an example by resting on the seventh day after all the work of his creating. So we as farmers should do that. However, I know of professing Christian farmers who will do farm work, not just caring for the needs of his farm, on the Sabbath during the busy season. We saw in one of the scriptures earlier that God told the Israelites to rest on the Sabbath even during the busy seasons of plowing and harvest. For one thing, we shouldn’t plan our work as if we had seven days to work. Second, we need to make sure that we work hard the other six days so we won’t need to work on the seventh. And last, we need to trust that God will provide what we need from the faithful work of six days a week.
(This article is an excerpt from the rough draft of the book I am currently working on and hope to announce soon. Most of my writing efforts are going towards finishing this project before the season gets too busy so I have to cheat and substitute articles with snippets of my book. This is fairly unedited and suggestions are welcome.)