Someone has observed that Americans play at their work (hence our declining productivity) and work at their play (hence the billion dollar recreation industry). To those who trick out their computers to play video games, spend hours perfecting their golf swing, and exhaust their weekends in constant motion, the Lord says, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” Many of us don’t know how to rest. When Jesus calls us to come to him and find rest for our souls, something in our hearts says, yes! But then we ignore Jesus and listen to our busy calendar. Others, though, have a problem being fruitfully employed. The Lord’s word to them is “Six days you shall labor…” Americans have become so enamored with time and labor saving devices, that they have forgotten the value of spending a day at one’s craft.
Perhaps half the people in church on a Sunday have a serious issue with play and resting. They can’t receive Jesus’ promise of an easy yoke and a light burden, because they have lost the ability to receive the gift of rest. Those who are out of touch with their inner need for recreation, will also be out of touch with their soul. Perfectionism, work addiction, and the mistaken belief that everything depends upon our efforts, are spirit robbing plagues, both inside and outside the church. We need to rotate our church leadership. We need to regularly ask workers to step away from their positions when they loose perspective, becoming enmeshed and controlling. We need to learn to have a sense of humor. We need to take up dancing. Without joy, there is no communication of the Gospel.
The other half lives very differently. They pass by opportunities to grow in their discipleship and service to Christ. Ancient farmers used to pair up new calves with seasoned bulls, giving the youngsters an ‘easy yoke.’ In this way, the calve would learned by example the work ethic of the mature bull. Jesus, as Lord of the Sabbath, provides us with many lessons on how and when to intentionally rest one’s soul. But he also, was always about his Heavenly Father’s work. He lived with a purpose. We, like him, can leave this world a better place.
Jesus in Matthew 11:16 is watching children play. The game they are doing is similar to musical chairs. The players must dance vigorously when the music is joyful and then slump gloomily when the tempo slows. Like most children’s games, it teaches a lesson. We need to be flexible in life. Sometimes the voice of the Holy Spirit sweetly calls us to rest. Other portions of our lives are to be set aside for our vocation. Many of our psychological and spiritual ills are rooted in our choice to muddle through life at one hazardous setting. Worse still, we criticize those who change with their context. Jesus was all about change.