Rebooting and the Fourth Commandment

Do you ever have to reboot your computer? Something goes wrong, a program crashes, the system locks up … You may experience a moment of panic. You wonder if important data has been lost. Will you have to start a big project all over again? Is the computer damaged?

Then you click the restart button, the system reboots, and – at least most of the time – your data (the majority of it, anyway) is still there.

Most of us probably expect to reboot our computers from time to time, just as most of us who are Christians or Jews believe in the Ten Commandments. Even people of other religious faiths (or none) often respect the Ten Commandments as the basis of our legal system.  Just about everybody agrees with the admonitions against murder, theft, and lying, but some of the other commandments are less widely obeyed.

Perhaps the most neglected is the fourth commandment: “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.” (Exodus 20:8-11, NIV)

I confess that this is hard for me, a lifelong workaholic. Working from home adds to the temptation – when I had to drive several miles to my office, the temptation to work on Sundays and holidays was easier to resist. But now my office is just a few steps away, and I find myself “just going to take a quick peek at e-mail” … and ending up working for hours.

This year, I took four whole days off for Christmas. Okay, I did check e-mail a few times, but I did no more than delete spam and respond to a couple of clients to tell them I would get back to them when I returned to work on Wednesday.

Taking time away from work and stress reboots our internal “computers” – our souls and spirits. Writers (or anyone) can be more effective after mental and spiritual refreshment. From a practical point of view, then, taking time off work is valuable. We can think more clearly and work faster and better when we aren’t stressed and exhausted from endless work. So honoring the Sabbath is beneficial even if you do it for purely selfish reasons.

But the real meaning of honoring the Sabbath is honoring God. Michael Medved has a Townhall column on this subject, in which he talks about two aspects of observing the Sabbath: “remembering” (positive – observance and celebration) and “guarding” (negative – avoidance of certain behaviors). He writes, “The key purpose of both “remembering” and “guarding” (of both positive and negative observances) is to make the Sabbath “holy” – to consecrate the day to God, and to set it aside as different from all other days.”

A Christian writer friend commented the other day that in our society today “Sunday is just like every other day of the week.” When I was growing up, the stores were closed on Sunday, and the only people who went to work were those – like hospital employees and policemen – who were involved in critical jobs that affected safety and health. Now businesses are open every day and conferences and similar events are often scheduled on weekends.

But just because society doesn’t honor the Sabbath doesn’t mean I have to follow the ways of the world. St. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is -his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

As I look ahead to the New Year, I intend to observe the fourth commandment and “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”

[tags]Sabbath, Ten Commandments[/tags]

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