Church Growth

What is the Sabbath? Finding Rest in a Time of Chaos

Most Christians think of the Sabbath as falling on Sunday. However, “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word “Shabbat”, which refers specifically to Saturday.The idea of Sabbath is still very much a part of weekly rhythms in the church. But in a culture defined by busyness and distraction, what does a “day of rest” really mean? In the following article, we’ll take a look at what Sabbath is, as well as strategies for adopting this practical habit in a time of hurry, stress, and chaos.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:2)

“Sabbath” is a word that’s familiar to most followers of Jesus. 

Most Christians think of the Sabbath as falling on Sunday. However, “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word “Shabbat”, which refers specifically to Saturday. In the Bible, the early disciples of Christ celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday

Regardless of when you recognize this day, the most general interpretation of Sabbath is simply a day with no work. The more specific Old Testament definition of Sabbath is the 24 hours following sundown on Friday evening, accompanied by rules around labor, preparation of food, and more. 

A 2018 study by Lifeway showed that 77% of American Protestants take a day of rest. In some states, so-called “blue laws” still prohibit certain sales on Sundays. In most cities and communities, you’ll find Sunday to be a day where many people enjoy time with friends and family outdoors, go to meals, or host barbecues or picnics. 

The idea of Sabbath is still very much a part of weekly rhythms in the church. But in a culture defined by busyness and distraction, what does a “day of rest” really mean? 
In the following article, we’ll take a look at what Sabbath is, as well as strategies for adopting this practical habit in a time of hurry, stress, and chaos. 

Desperate for Rest

People are stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed...maybe more than ever. 

Not only do we live at a highly accelerated pace, but we’re collectively facing a global pandemic, political division, racial tensions, and international crises. While chaos is nothing new to humanity, we’re now exposed to news and media like never before. 

In 2021, anxiety affected 40 million adults in America. According to the American Psychological Association, “​​We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.” They cite pandemic-induced stress compounded by already present stressors as cause for this crisis. 

It’s widely accepted that having faith reduces stress. In fact, an article published by the International Journal of Depression and Anxiety showed that in 32 different studies, practicing a faith was almost uniformly associated with lowered anxiety. 

Still, followers of Jesus are still dealing with stress and anxiety and need a Sabbath rest more than ever. 

Sabbath & the Bible

In Genesis 1, we see a God who creates the world in six days and rests on the seventh day. 

Theologian Tim Mackie says, “Each day is marked with the phrase, ‘There was evening and there was morning.’ But, on the seventh day something special happens. God stops and rests. Creation is brought to its completion on the seventh day.”

Sabbath was created at the genesis of the world. God set the original example of taking a day of rest, and then reiterated that concept in Exodus.


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 male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 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)


The Sabbath was the fourth commandment, spoken to the Israelites by Moses. In other words, taking a Sabbath was on par with not murdering anyone, or worshipping false idols. 

Later on in the New Testament, we see a Sabbath that has evolved from lifegiving commandment to legalistic regulation. The Hebrew people have lost the heart of Sabbath, and have reduced it to an opportunity to punish people for breaking the rules. Jesus highlights their hypocrisy by performing miracles on the Sabbath. 

Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. (Mark 3:3-5)

Of course, the Pharisees were furious. Jesus proved His point, though his intent wasn’t to abolish the Sabbath. His intent was to reveal the heart condition of the highly religious. 

As followers of Jesus, we are still called to intentional rest. What that looks like, however, may vary from person to person. 

How to Take a Sabbath in the 21st Century 

Today, there are Orthodox Jews who still practice the Sabbath exactly as prescribed in the Old Testament. This includes firm rules about abstaining from electricity, manual labor, and even vehicle transportation. The Sabbath also includes the Shabbat (the Hebrew word for Sabbath) meal, a traditionally celebrated meal in Jewish culture that commences the 24 hours of rest with prayer and breaking of bread. 

While there is certainly value in all of these practices, the average Christian isn’t going to adhere to these guidelines. While many Christians do consider Sunday their day of rest, it often becomes a day to run errands, pack in social activities, and even squeeze in a couple hours of extra work before Monday morning. 

For Christians who work in the medical or hospitality industry, practicing a Sabbath on the weekend may be near-impossible. 

Yet, Sabbath is still an Old Testament commandment. God gives it for a good purpose–in part, for rest, refreshment, and well-being. 

When asked, “What does it mean practically to keep the Sabbath holy?” theologian John Piper responds “...by and large, it probably should be a matter of personal conscience. But that doesn't mean that it has no meaning and no biblical guidelines.”

The Sabbath has purpose for every one of us. It is a day we are meant to “keep holy.” (Exodus 20:8)  And it is a day to focus on God, meditate on truth, and enjoy creation. Here are things you may want to consider for practicing the Sabbath:

Spend time in the Word. 

Revive and refresh me according to Your word. (Psalm 119:25)

The Sabbath is an opportunity to study and meditate on the Bible, beyond your typical daily devotions. Scripture points to the Word of God as a source of refreshment. Slowing down to dive into a particular passage, book, or even line of Scripture can bring a sense of transformation and peace that watching Netflix never will. 

If you’re unsure of where to start on reading the Bible, here’s a guide on inductive Bible study

Keep your plans open. 

This might be the most challenging part of keeping a Sabbath. It’s counter-cultural to keep an open calendar, and to say no to new opportunities without having an excuse. 

But keeping your schedule open may be the only way to achieve true rest. That includes moments and spaces where you may feel “bored” or “unproductive.” Believe it or not, boredom can be good for your brain. 

The “Default Mode Network” (DMN) is a part of your brain that becomes more active when you’re at rest. It’s commonly associated with creativity, memory, and identity–and it’s key to feeling refreshed. 

When we let our minds wander, it can be replenishing,” says Dr. Scott Bea, Doctor of Psychology at the Center for Adult Behavioral Health in Cleveland. “....part of the reason we need more downtime is that we’re doing way too much processing already.”

One way to remain accountable to this life-giving practice is to agree to “keep plans open” with your community. That helps you resist the temptation to over-plan your weekend with friends–and helps you avoid the challenge of turning down invitations!

Tithe.ly Messenger can help you communicate with your small group or community about this shared goal and encourage one another to practice a true, restful Sabbath.

Reflect.

The Sabbath is important because it forces us to slow down and reflect.  And the busier your lifestyle is, the more you need to take time for reflection. 

Taking a pause to reflect on your relationship with God, your relationships to others, your work or vocation, and your well-being can be extremely beneficial. It can help you make healthier decisions. It can produce creative ideas. And it can bring self-awareness that will improve your relationships. 

Reflection is critical, but many people don’t like to do it. Whether they don’t see a “point,” or they’re more “action-oriented,” reflection can feel like a waste of time. 

Though it may feel unnatural for some, healthy reflection can bring a greater sense of purpose and gratitude. It can also bring us closer into a greater awareness of union with our Creator, as we remember what He has done and acknowledge what He is doing. 

Do a digital detox.

Digital technology certainly has its place (We’re obviously fans of it at Tithe.ly!). But there’s a time and place for unplugging from your smartphone, laptop, and tablet.

In an age of social media addiction and skyrocketing rates of screen time, it may require intentionality and even sacrifice to put down your phone on the Sabbath. But scrolling through your Instagram doesn’t constitute true rest. 

Spending too much time on screens can impact your mental health, sleep, and ability to achieve productive work. This can be particularly detrimental for kids and teens. 

Going into airplane mode–even for a few hours–can help you feel rested in a brand-new way on the Sabbath. 

Take a break from consumption. 

There’s nothing wrong with buying material goods. But using the Sabbath as an opportunity to step aside from consumption can help you to practice gratitude, rest, and self-control. 

The Sabbath isn’t a day to buy or sell — to get more. It’s a day to enjoy what I already have,” says pastor and author John Mark Comer. 

Avoiding making purchases on the Sabbath requires intentionality and sacrifice. But it can be a wonderful (and refreshing) reminder that the Sabbath is holy–and that you are more than a consumer. 

Practice a hobby or passion. 

The Sabbath is an opportunity to practice a hobby or passion that brings you joy. The point is not to be productive; the point is to simply delight in a skill or area of interest outside of your work. 

Studies show that having a hobby can actually improve your mental health. People with hobbies are less likely to suffer from stress or depression. Having a hobby can also stimulate your mind and generate creativity. 

Enjoy beauty. 

How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all... (Psalm 104:24)

Observing beauty is a Biblically-based way to cultivate a sense of awe and wonder of God. Tim Keller calls this “aesthetic time,” and names it as one of six ways to enjoy the Sabbath. Aesthetic time is not limited to natural beauty–such as in nature–but also to art forms, such as music or visual art. 

Take advantage of time and space to sit and enjoy beauty on the Sabbath. That could be watching a sunset, taking a hike, or even browsing an art gallery. 

Take time for prayer. 

Too often, prayer can feel like “work” to followers of Christ. Like studying the Word, however, taking time to pray and set your needs before the Lord refreshes your soul. 

Coupled with the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude, prayer can be a powerful way to “keep the Sabbath holy” (Exodus 20:8). Above all else, it’s a way to connect with Jesus, be restored in His presence, and experience His love. 

Ultimate Rest

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)

Remember that God didn’t create a five day workweek. He actually created a six day workweek, where we pause on the seventh day. God isn’t anti-work. But He does know that in order to thrive, we need to rest. 

While Sabbath includes physical rest from our own work, busyness, and regular routine, ultimate rest is found only in believing in Jesus. In Him, we can rest from our own work and strive for righteousness–and place our hope on what He has done for us. 

Achieving Work-Rest Balance with Tithe.ly

Achieving balance between work and rest can be a challenge, especially for those of us who work in the full, busy environment of a church!

Tithe.ly offers a full suite of tools for church management and operations–including a giving platform, communications, service planning, volunteer management, and more–to make church management more efficient. 

If you’re a church leader or on church staff, using Tithe.ly will ultimately help you to work better so that you can rest better. To try out Tithe.ly for free, click here

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What is the Sabbath? Finding Rest in a Time of Chaos

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What is the Sabbath? Finding Rest in a Time of Chaos

Most Christians think of the Sabbath as falling on Sunday. However, “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word “Shabbat”, which refers specifically to Saturday.The idea of Sabbath is still very much a part of weekly rhythms in the church. But in a culture defined by busyness and distraction, what does a “day of rest” really mean? In the following article, we’ll take a look at what Sabbath is, as well as strategies for adopting this practical habit in a time of hurry, stress, and chaos.

Show notes

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:2)

“Sabbath” is a word that’s familiar to most followers of Jesus. 

Most Christians think of the Sabbath as falling on Sunday. However, “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word “Shabbat”, which refers specifically to Saturday. In the Bible, the early disciples of Christ celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday

Regardless of when you recognize this day, the most general interpretation of Sabbath is simply a day with no work. The more specific Old Testament definition of Sabbath is the 24 hours following sundown on Friday evening, accompanied by rules around labor, preparation of food, and more. 

A 2018 study by Lifeway showed that 77% of American Protestants take a day of rest. In some states, so-called “blue laws” still prohibit certain sales on Sundays. In most cities and communities, you’ll find Sunday to be a day where many people enjoy time with friends and family outdoors, go to meals, or host barbecues or picnics. 

The idea of Sabbath is still very much a part of weekly rhythms in the church. But in a culture defined by busyness and distraction, what does a “day of rest” really mean? 
In the following article, we’ll take a look at what Sabbath is, as well as strategies for adopting this practical habit in a time of hurry, stress, and chaos. 

Desperate for Rest

People are stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed...maybe more than ever. 

Not only do we live at a highly accelerated pace, but we’re collectively facing a global pandemic, political division, racial tensions, and international crises. While chaos is nothing new to humanity, we’re now exposed to news and media like never before. 

In 2021, anxiety affected 40 million adults in America. According to the American Psychological Association, “​​We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.” They cite pandemic-induced stress compounded by already present stressors as cause for this crisis. 

It’s widely accepted that having faith reduces stress. In fact, an article published by the International Journal of Depression and Anxiety showed that in 32 different studies, practicing a faith was almost uniformly associated with lowered anxiety. 

Still, followers of Jesus are still dealing with stress and anxiety and need a Sabbath rest more than ever. 

Sabbath & the Bible

In Genesis 1, we see a God who creates the world in six days and rests on the seventh day. 

Theologian Tim Mackie says, “Each day is marked with the phrase, ‘There was evening and there was morning.’ But, on the seventh day something special happens. God stops and rests. Creation is brought to its completion on the seventh day.”

Sabbath was created at the genesis of the world. God set the original example of taking a day of rest, and then reiterated that concept in Exodus.


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 male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 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)


The Sabbath was the fourth commandment, spoken to the Israelites by Moses. In other words, taking a Sabbath was on par with not murdering anyone, or worshipping false idols. 

Later on in the New Testament, we see a Sabbath that has evolved from lifegiving commandment to legalistic regulation. The Hebrew people have lost the heart of Sabbath, and have reduced it to an opportunity to punish people for breaking the rules. Jesus highlights their hypocrisy by performing miracles on the Sabbath. 

Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. (Mark 3:3-5)

Of course, the Pharisees were furious. Jesus proved His point, though his intent wasn’t to abolish the Sabbath. His intent was to reveal the heart condition of the highly religious. 

As followers of Jesus, we are still called to intentional rest. What that looks like, however, may vary from person to person. 

How to Take a Sabbath in the 21st Century 

Today, there are Orthodox Jews who still practice the Sabbath exactly as prescribed in the Old Testament. This includes firm rules about abstaining from electricity, manual labor, and even vehicle transportation. The Sabbath also includes the Shabbat (the Hebrew word for Sabbath) meal, a traditionally celebrated meal in Jewish culture that commences the 24 hours of rest with prayer and breaking of bread. 

While there is certainly value in all of these practices, the average Christian isn’t going to adhere to these guidelines. While many Christians do consider Sunday their day of rest, it often becomes a day to run errands, pack in social activities, and even squeeze in a couple hours of extra work before Monday morning. 

For Christians who work in the medical or hospitality industry, practicing a Sabbath on the weekend may be near-impossible. 

Yet, Sabbath is still an Old Testament commandment. God gives it for a good purpose–in part, for rest, refreshment, and well-being. 

When asked, “What does it mean practically to keep the Sabbath holy?” theologian John Piper responds “...by and large, it probably should be a matter of personal conscience. But that doesn't mean that it has no meaning and no biblical guidelines.”

The Sabbath has purpose for every one of us. It is a day we are meant to “keep holy.” (Exodus 20:8)  And it is a day to focus on God, meditate on truth, and enjoy creation. Here are things you may want to consider for practicing the Sabbath:

Spend time in the Word. 

Revive and refresh me according to Your word. (Psalm 119:25)

The Sabbath is an opportunity to study and meditate on the Bible, beyond your typical daily devotions. Scripture points to the Word of God as a source of refreshment. Slowing down to dive into a particular passage, book, or even line of Scripture can bring a sense of transformation and peace that watching Netflix never will. 

If you’re unsure of where to start on reading the Bible, here’s a guide on inductive Bible study

Keep your plans open. 

This might be the most challenging part of keeping a Sabbath. It’s counter-cultural to keep an open calendar, and to say no to new opportunities without having an excuse. 

But keeping your schedule open may be the only way to achieve true rest. That includes moments and spaces where you may feel “bored” or “unproductive.” Believe it or not, boredom can be good for your brain. 

The “Default Mode Network” (DMN) is a part of your brain that becomes more active when you’re at rest. It’s commonly associated with creativity, memory, and identity–and it’s key to feeling refreshed. 

When we let our minds wander, it can be replenishing,” says Dr. Scott Bea, Doctor of Psychology at the Center for Adult Behavioral Health in Cleveland. “....part of the reason we need more downtime is that we’re doing way too much processing already.”

One way to remain accountable to this life-giving practice is to agree to “keep plans open” with your community. That helps you resist the temptation to over-plan your weekend with friends–and helps you avoid the challenge of turning down invitations!

Tithe.ly Messenger can help you communicate with your small group or community about this shared goal and encourage one another to practice a true, restful Sabbath.

Reflect.

The Sabbath is important because it forces us to slow down and reflect.  And the busier your lifestyle is, the more you need to take time for reflection. 

Taking a pause to reflect on your relationship with God, your relationships to others, your work or vocation, and your well-being can be extremely beneficial. It can help you make healthier decisions. It can produce creative ideas. And it can bring self-awareness that will improve your relationships. 

Reflection is critical, but many people don’t like to do it. Whether they don’t see a “point,” or they’re more “action-oriented,” reflection can feel like a waste of time. 

Though it may feel unnatural for some, healthy reflection can bring a greater sense of purpose and gratitude. It can also bring us closer into a greater awareness of union with our Creator, as we remember what He has done and acknowledge what He is doing. 

Do a digital detox.

Digital technology certainly has its place (We’re obviously fans of it at Tithe.ly!). But there’s a time and place for unplugging from your smartphone, laptop, and tablet.

In an age of social media addiction and skyrocketing rates of screen time, it may require intentionality and even sacrifice to put down your phone on the Sabbath. But scrolling through your Instagram doesn’t constitute true rest. 

Spending too much time on screens can impact your mental health, sleep, and ability to achieve productive work. This can be particularly detrimental for kids and teens. 

Going into airplane mode–even for a few hours–can help you feel rested in a brand-new way on the Sabbath. 

Take a break from consumption. 

There’s nothing wrong with buying material goods. But using the Sabbath as an opportunity to step aside from consumption can help you to practice gratitude, rest, and self-control. 

The Sabbath isn’t a day to buy or sell — to get more. It’s a day to enjoy what I already have,” says pastor and author John Mark Comer. 

Avoiding making purchases on the Sabbath requires intentionality and sacrifice. But it can be a wonderful (and refreshing) reminder that the Sabbath is holy–and that you are more than a consumer. 

Practice a hobby or passion. 

The Sabbath is an opportunity to practice a hobby or passion that brings you joy. The point is not to be productive; the point is to simply delight in a skill or area of interest outside of your work. 

Studies show that having a hobby can actually improve your mental health. People with hobbies are less likely to suffer from stress or depression. Having a hobby can also stimulate your mind and generate creativity. 

Enjoy beauty. 

How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all... (Psalm 104:24)

Observing beauty is a Biblically-based way to cultivate a sense of awe and wonder of God. Tim Keller calls this “aesthetic time,” and names it as one of six ways to enjoy the Sabbath. Aesthetic time is not limited to natural beauty–such as in nature–but also to art forms, such as music or visual art. 

Take advantage of time and space to sit and enjoy beauty on the Sabbath. That could be watching a sunset, taking a hike, or even browsing an art gallery. 

Take time for prayer. 

Too often, prayer can feel like “work” to followers of Christ. Like studying the Word, however, taking time to pray and set your needs before the Lord refreshes your soul. 

Coupled with the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude, prayer can be a powerful way to “keep the Sabbath holy” (Exodus 20:8). Above all else, it’s a way to connect with Jesus, be restored in His presence, and experience His love. 

Ultimate Rest

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)

Remember that God didn’t create a five day workweek. He actually created a six day workweek, where we pause on the seventh day. God isn’t anti-work. But He does know that in order to thrive, we need to rest. 

While Sabbath includes physical rest from our own work, busyness, and regular routine, ultimate rest is found only in believing in Jesus. In Him, we can rest from our own work and strive for righteousness–and place our hope on what He has done for us. 

Achieving Work-Rest Balance with Tithe.ly

Achieving balance between work and rest can be a challenge, especially for those of us who work in the full, busy environment of a church!

Tithe.ly offers a full suite of tools for church management and operations–including a giving platform, communications, service planning, volunteer management, and more–to make church management more efficient. 

If you’re a church leader or on church staff, using Tithe.ly will ultimately help you to work better so that you can rest better. To try out Tithe.ly for free, click here

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