“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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:9-11)
Sabbath is a gift from God. He set the example by resting on the first Sabbath. Even the land is to enjoy rest as every seventh year the land was to lay untended. Every seventh year, slaves were set free. This brought the gift of hope to an otherwise desperate situation. After seven cycles of seven year Sabbaths, a Jubilee would be declared and all land was to be returned to its ancestral owners. These acts countered the tendency of a small number of people to accumulate wealth at the expense of others.
“Time is money,” is the popular rally call today but, in primitive cultures, three hours a day was all that is needed to grow and gather enough food for three days. During the Stone Age, the average work week was 15 hours. Men would hunt and the women gather and, then, paint on cave walls and tell stories around the fire.
The Industrial revolution increased the hours required to work. Factories started at a certain time and the workers had to be at their posts. Factory owners wanted more wealth and, often, exploited workers with low wages, long hours and dangerous conditions. They exploited resources by taking as much out of the ground, as fast as they could; dumping their poisons in the ground and water. Labor laws and unions have created a more equitable work environment but have not changed the human heart.
The booming economy following WWII, created an atmosphere of consumerism that was needed if growth was to continue. We worked harder to buy more toys, while advertisers cheered us on. We buy on credit and wind up working to pay off our debt. It's almost as if we have sold ourselves to slavery. “I owe, owe. It's off yo work I go.”
Consumerism damages our planet and our physical, spiritual and emotional health. It has been said, “There is enough for human need but never enough for human greed.”
Sabbath is the antidote to consumerism and the key to sustainability. It controls greed driven growth and gives the land a chance to recover. It enhances physical, mental, and spiritual health by allowing us to be unproductive and enjoy the moment that we are in.