In Mark 2, Jesus is walking through some grain fields. A couple of his disciples do something that would be very natural to many of us — they pick off some heads of grain and pop them in their mouths. Who doesn’t need a little road trip snack, right?
But this is an egregious error to the onlooking Pharisees. After all, it was the Sabbath and their rules specifically state that you can’t harvest crops on the Sabbath.
So Jesus tells them a little story about King David and his men eating some consecrated bread and drops this brilliant idea on them:
“The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
Such a simple reminder, but one that cuts to the heart of the Pharisees’ problem. And if we’re honest, one that exposes a religious trap that all of us can fall into.
It can be so easy to take these guidelines that we see in scripture and make them into rules. Into items on a checklist that we can mark “done.” Because that gives us something we can measure, something that we can control. We can feel like we have done our duty and God should be pleased with us.
We can take these beautiful instructions that are intended to help us navigate life in the best way possible and turn them into an agenda to accomplished.
In the end that’s just religious busy work. This is what Sabbath had become for the Pharisees.
Which is ironic, because that’s exactly what Sabbath is intended to combat.
Sabbath was not instituted on a whim as some religious hoop to jump through in order to please a jealous God.
Sabbath was given so that we may see the world around us differently.
We can become so consumed with doing, with work, with the tasks of our daily lives that we can lose perspective on what it all means. Certainly this is a problem exacerbated by the complexities of our modern age, but it is by no means a modern problem. This is our human tendency and it has been that way from the beginning.
We can overemphasize our work, and when that happens work becomes God.
Sabbath urges us to stop and see the world as it really is instead of the version that we’ve made it into.
Sabbath reminds us that although our work is fruitful and important, there is a much bigger story going on around us.
Sabbath reminds us that while we can contribute in valuable ways to this amazing story, this whole thing is really all a gift.
Sabbath helps us to see the forest, not just the trees.
So may you experience some Sabbath today.
May you stop and breathe and find rest.
May you see the world around you clearly with open eyes and a full heart.
May you understand that this is all a gift that can never be earned.
And may you see the beautiful forest through the ever-present trees of your life.