Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Pastor Roger,
I had a close Christian friend tell me that he believes in tithing your time. And I have been doing it for a long time. In the morning I spend 2.4 hours with God. But I don't remember where in the bible he got that I idea from. I do believe we should read our bibles daily but what can you tell me about that. Is that idea biblical?"
Thank you, and God Bless you,
Sincerely, Jose V
Dear Jose V,
Never in the Bible do we find any sort of teaching that we are to give God a tithe of our time. All our time belongs to God. We give to Him as we walk in the Spirit and live out the Christian life on a daily basis—whatever we are doing.
Nevertheless, the idea of time is important in the Bible—never so much so as in understanding the eternal principles of rest as demonstrated by the Sabbath (which means "seventh").
The last half century has seen a non-stop flow of innovations that allow us to do more in less time than ever before. Unfortunately, we have not used the extra time to rest. We use it to cram more and more into shorter and shorter time periods.
We continue to compress more and more into life; but, I don’t believe we are getting more or better out of it!
We have filled our lives with: texting, Twitter, tweeting, emails, Facebook, QR codes, iPhones, iPads, Kindles, Nooks, phone cameras, instant messaging, mp3, mp4, beepers, satellite pagers, online services, 3G, 4G, call forwarding, and portable lap top computers—just to mention a few (I heard a friend say, "If you have more than three ways people can get in touch with you, you are a really sick person").
Have you ever noticed on a hot day that when you turn your gas grill on high, the propane tank gets cold? It’s because the tank is being decompressed, and when they fill the tank, it gets hot.
The laws of compression and expansion are immutable. Compress a gas or a liquid and it becomes hot. Decompress a gas and you cause it to cool.
Life works the same way: the more we compress into our lives the more heat is produced, and that heat comes in the form of stress and anxiety.
Jesus did not live like this. And we don’t have to, either. He walked for weeks and the phone never rang. He got along just fine. He got everything done he needed to do.
"Yeah, but that was Jesus! Does God have an answer for us?" You bet He does! The answer can be found in the eternal principles of the Sabbath.
As New Testament Christians we are under no obligation to keep the 24 hours from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown as our Sabbath. Do we still observe the Old Testament Sabbath? No. The only commandment of the ten not repeated in the New Testament is, "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy."
When did Christians begin worshipping on Sunday? In the first century. Sunday worship was a weekly celebration of the resurrection.
But there is no rule that we have to make Sunday our day of worship. Paul criticized those who say that we have to worship on any particular day (Romans 14:5-7 and Galatians 4:10). We are free in Christ to choose the day that is best for us! Nevertheless, the way our churches and society are structured, most of us will choose to have Sunday as our "Sabbath."
So let me make some practical suggestions.
1. TAKE A FULL TWENTY-FOUR HOURS OFF EVERY SEVEN DAYS.
There is an eternal principle here that goes right back to the creation. God created and worked for six days and then rested on the seventh. If resting one day out of seven is good enough for God it ought to be good enough for us!
The original purpose of the Sabbath was twofold. If we analyze all the Old Testament verses we find two themes describing what the Sabbath is for: Rest and Worship. The idea of rest is emphasized more than worship.
Exodus 23:12: "Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed."
The idea is refreshment, recharging our batteries, resting our souls, our animals, and our servants.
Sometimes we think we can be like the Energizer Bunny—and just keep going and going and going. But, the bunny is a fraud. They do have to keep putting new batteries in eventually.
We think we can take 20 minutes every day or so at Starbucks and be fine—not!
Twenty-four hours off is not to leave work at noon on one day and go back to work at noon on the next. In this scenario we still worked every day. God says that we need to stop every six days for 24 solid hours. We need a full-day where no work occurs.
For many of us this means five days at our job, one day working at home to get all the chores done, and one day with no work whatsoever.
Several dozen master’s level students at MIT were sleep deprived for 48 hours. At the end of the study, brain scans revealed that the scan of a master’s level student kept awake for 48 hours is remarkably like the brain scan of a schizophrenic.
2. MAKE YOUR SABBATH THE MOST ENJOYABLE DAY OF YOUR WEEK.
In the first century, Sunday worship was a time of great joy! In fact the Christians had so much fun that the Romans suspected that Christians were guilty of orgies on Sunday.
Jesus said: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).
Fundamentally, Christ saw the Sabbath (and by extension, all of life) as being a day of restoration and connectedness with God.
"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:4-7). How do you make a day holy? By making it unpleasant, restrictive, and boring like the Pharisees did? Or by making it fulfilling and joyous and special like Jesus did? By making it as much as possible like Hell? Or as much as possible like Heaven?
I remember a youth spaghetti party at our church that fed several hundreds one Sunday evening.
A family interested in attending our church went to the dinner. The next Sunday one of their children overheard the parents discussing where to go to church: “I want to go to the spaghetti church!” he said. And so they did.
Do what restores on Sunday. For some it is to mow the grass. For others it is to go on a hike or play a sport like golf or tennis. Maybe it is to read or work on a hobby or get together for family dinners. Maybe like you like to cook out and make S'mores. The Sabbath was made for you. Rest and have fun.
3. SPEND SOME TIME IN WORSHIP DURING YOUR SABBATH.
Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “I have in my heart a small, shy plant called reverence; I cultivate that on Sundays."
Like all other days, the entire day belongs to God. Use your Sabbath as an opportunity to enter into the divine relationship between experiencing God and rest (in other words, “worship”).
Isaiah 30:15: “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,…’”
Someday, take an opportunity to compare the godly line of Seth in Genesis 5 with the ungodly line of Cain in Genesis 4. Cain’s offspring were too busy for God. His lineage is filled with sin, rebellion and murder. On the other hand, Seth’s offspring made time with God a priority. The contrast of delight and holiness is dramatic.
Rest must precede worship. We must leave activities long enough to create enough space in our minds in order to be able to worship. True worship is very restful! We don’t get rest from just stopping activities.
In worship we come into contact with the living God. Many of life’s cares, problems, troubles, and anxieties disappear.
4. RECOGNIZE THAT THE SABBATH IS NOT A CATCH-UP DAY FOR WHAT'S UNDONE, IT'S A REST-UP DAY FOR EVERYTHING TO COME.
Sabbath begins not when we wake up in the morning but with a night’s sleep and rest. We rest in order to work. We must rid ourselves of the idea that we work hard and thus earn the right to rest.
Bishop Gerald Kennedy of California’s Methodist church told of two groups crossing the plains during migrations to California during gold rush days.
One group was led by a Christian who stopped every Lord’s Day for worship and rest. The other party was led by a non-Christian who was so motivated with gold fever that he refused to let them stop and rest (first come first served in gold fields).
The amazing thing is that the wagon train that rested and worshipped every seventh day arrived first in the gold fields.
Today’s society is arranged for most of us so that work is never finished.
On the contrary, Jesus was able to say from the Cross: “It is finished.”
Jesus worked hard and then called it quits for the day. Lepers still needed healing; but, He had done all He was going to do, and it was time to rest and pray. So He did. The time comes when it is OK to say, “That’s enough.” We rest, restore and worship and thus are able to keep life healthy and in balance.
Well, Jose V, I hope that you find my answer helpful as you live life wisely and restfully for Christ.
Dr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.