Jesus was in constant conflict with the religious leaders of his day. One of their biggest conflicts was over the proper observance of the Sabbath. God said take a day off work and rest. How good is that? How generous is that? Don’t work, just rest. Unfortunately, the religious leaders had turned the blessing of God into a list of demands. A list of thirty-nine rules were made so that you rested in a “godly” way. You probably didn’t realize that you needed that much instruction on how not to work, did you?
After one of these conflicts over the Sabbath, Jesus said “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” At first, this may seem like a simple point of correction about the purpose of the Sabbath, but I want to suggest that it is one of the most instructive and far reaching statements that Jesus ever made. It helps us to understand God’s intent toward us.
The religious leaders thought that “man was made for the Sabbath.” In other words, we were made to jump through the thirty-nine hoops of good Sabbath resting in order to please God. Jesus says no, “The Sabbath was made for man.” That is, the Sabbath was a gift from God for man to enjoy. Are you enjoying your walk with God or is it a list of demands that you feel obligated to meet in order to be right with God? The significance of Jesus words extend far beyond the Sabbath and into every detail of our Christian life.
Jesus is a life-giver. He came to give you life. That was his mission. Yet we tend to turn his life-giving gifts into burdens. Let me give you a few examples:
Church: God knows that we need the help of others, and so he creates a community of people that can help each other walk with God. What an incredible gift! But, does it feel like a gift to you or has it turned into a burden to get up early on Sunday to go worship? Is it a hassle to get involved in ministry and serve? Does giving financially make you cringe? Does getting involved in people’s lives just seem like too much work? Don’t turn the simple gift of community into a burden. Change your perspective. Look at how God is caring for you in these things.
Spiritual Disciplines: Bible Study, prayer, worship, sharing Jesus with others. God gives us these wonderful gifts, but it is so easy to get things mixed up and turn them into demands to be met. Most people feel guilty about their lack of prayer and bible study, etc. Maybe we are looking at it all wrong. Those are not things that God is requiring of you to make him happy. They are things that God has given you to make you happy. Try that perspective on the next time you open your bible or pray.
Obedience: The intentions of God get really twisted when it comes to God’s commands. God doesn’t call us to obey his Word because he wants to restrict our lives. God calls us to obey because he knows the best way to live and his commands show us that way. His commands bring freedom from the pain and ugliness that come with sin. God’s commands are a gift.
So, how will you see it? What perspective will you take? Embrace the Christian life as a gift and not a burden. It will make all the difference.