Rest and Work
John Telgren

I remember the first funeral I ever spoke after entering full time ministry. I had never met my sister in Christ, Lois Cram. She moved away before I arrived in that little Vermont town. She had previously been a member in Brattleboro and many of the folks there remembered her.

One of the poems she had requested to be read at her funeral was about going to Heaven to go and do "nuthin." It was a cute poem that spoke of being weary of all the labors of life and looking forward to going to Heaven to do "nuthin."

I can understand the sentiment. In fact, it may very well be possible that the sentiment originated with scripture. After all, it reminds us "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them" (Rev 14:13).

However, I am not sure that resting from our labors means doing nothing at all. From the beginning, man was created to serve. He was the keeper of the garden that God had created. There is no sense that work was created as a burdensome, weary, back-breaking grind. It wasn't until sin corrupted mankind and the world itself (Rom 8:21) that work became burdensome (Gen 3:17-19). This burdensome aspect of work seems to be a result of sin. In fact, the Greek word for "labors" in Rev 14:13 indicates not just activity, but hard, arduous, laborious work.

So, we will rest from labor, not from work. This is why scripture reminds us that the martyrs in Revelation who have gone on to be with the Lord, "serve Him day and night in His temple" (Rev 7:15). This indicates that we will probably be working in eternity. However, work will be a pleasure, not a dreaded, daily, drudgery that breaks our backs. Heaven seems to be a place for those tired in serving God, not for those tired of serving God.

The idea that work is bad and rest is good finds no place in the Bible. In fact, there is a time when a type of rest can be very bad. Consider these words to the "sluggard" in the book of Proverbs:

"How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 'A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest'--Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man" (Prov 6:9-11).

Yes, rest is good, but idleness is not. In fact, God commanded Israel to observe various Sabbaths. But God designed rest to come after periods of work. This rhythm is built into the created order itself. God worked six days and then rested on the seventh. This reminds us that work is good, but workaholism is bad. Working too much, too long, too hard is "striving after the wind." On the other hand, idleness brings poverty of mind, body, and Spirit. This poverty can bring weakness of intellect, emotion, and spirit.

So, whether it is work, vacation, a new job, or retirement, we would do well to consider God's instruction in these matters.