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Time Poverty and the Sabbath

July 11th, 2010 | 1 min read

By Christopher Benson

We all struggle with rest.

The paradox of modernity, according to theologian Colin Gunton, is that "a world dedicated to the pursuit of leisure and of machines that save labour is chiefly marked by its levels of rush, frenetic busyness and stress." Liberals and conservatives, secularists and persons of faith all seem to agree that time poverty is a modern malaise.

Renunciation with respect to time is making a comeback. Slow food, voluntary simplicity, and Take Back Your Time all assert, as does the Sabbath, that there is more to life than producing and consuming. All of which raises the question: Are trips to the spa––or weekends in general––really functional equivalents of the Sabbath?

Slow and simple are not sufficient solutions because restlessness runs deeper than mere overwork. Precisely because our disorder turns out to be not just cultural but rather part of the human condition, holiness matters.

How shall we then rest? Religious Jews welcome the Sabbath into their home as if it were personified, infusing it with almost salvific significance, and Christians personify the Sabbath in the person of Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath. Believers who rest in Christ, as one scholar put it, "will not need to worship their work or work at their place, but there will be an inner liberation, a genuine leisure in the way in which they go about both the work and the play of the week to the glory of God."*

* Karl E. Johnson, "How Shall We Then Rest", Books & Culture (July/August 2010): 14-15. [Review of Judith Shulevitz's The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time].

Christopher Benson