Hidden Nuggets Series #51 – “Six days you shall do work, and on the seventh day you will rest…” – Exodus 23:12
No, I’m not writing from a snowed in mountain resort lodge. I have to admit for years I assumed the proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” came from that Stephen King horror novel turned Jack Nicholson movie thriller The Shining, which mistakenly came in front of my eyes as a youth (thank you older cousins). I say mistakenly because no one under the age of 21 should put that imagery into their head. (And maybe if you are over 21, you shouldn’t either.)
Turns out the phrase “all work and no play” was originally published in Proverbs in English, Italian, French and Spanish (1659) and is attributed to a writer by the name of James Howell. It turned out to be his most popular proverbs. I certainly cannot think of another one.
The warning of the all work and no play proverb seems clear enough to me – that if we don’t release ourselves from the pressures of work from time to time we will become dull and uninteresting. We run the risk of becoming bored with life, as work becomes our sole focus day in and day out. We’ll neglect time for hobbies, family, friends, exercise, watching sports, reading, or just plain vegging.
That type of existence doesn’t spark a fire in me.
A Guideline For Work
I think maybe God knew a thing or two about work and left us a clear blueprint to follow. The Bible says in Exodus 23:12:
“Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest…”
This wasn’t the first time God had instructed the Hebrews in this regard. A few chapters prior in Exodus 20, as part of the greatest Ten Commandments given, God gives them this instruction in verses 8-10:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work…”
God clearly allowed for and expected us to work. However, He also commanded rest. The purpose of the rest day for the Hebrews was to worship God. They were to remember the Sabbath day of the week and keep it holy. God had set it aside as special. It was His day.
Working Seven Days a Week Today
We’ve become a culture that embraces an “all work and no play” philosophy. Whether it’s by necessity (because you need the money), by force (your employer requires it) or by choice (because you want the money), we seem to have no problem with punching the clock every day of the week.
In my adult life, I’ve been fortunate to avoid the working seven days a week scenario. My career as an educator always allowed for me to have the weekends to myself. There is actually more of a temptation to slip into a workaholic lifestyle now that I’m a stay at home dad and full-time blogger. I could easily do blog related activities every day of the week if I didn’t force myself to let go of it from time to time.
I’ve always admired companies that took the decision to work seven days a week off the table for their employees. The restaurant Chick-fil-a, based here in Georgia, does such a thing by shutting down all their restaurants on Sunday. Founder Truett Cathy felt that Sundays should be dedicated to rest, worship and family.
Yes, he is losing tons of profit on one of the busiest eating out days of the week. I’ll wager however, his employees are happier and sharper at work because they’ve been given at least one day off per week. (Actually I don’t have to wager on that idea…I know, having eaten there countless times. The culture, atmosphere and customer service at Chick-fil-a is unparalleled in that industry.)
All Work and No Play: Combating Workaholism
I can’t help but wonder that God knew the potential dangers of working too much. Yes, He wanted their attention and worship but were there other reasons He built into the ancient Hebrews’ week a non-work day?
It’s not entirely obvious how the Hebrews filled the entirety of their non-work day. Perhaps, along with their worship, they engaged in these activities – all of which help to break the compulsion to be a workaholic:
1. Rest. Our bodies need sleep. Most people don’t get enough during the workweek. An extra hour or two may be just what the body needs on an off day.
2. Relax. Let’s face it – work creates pressure, which then creates tension and stress. If not handled properly stress can begin to have negative affects on your body. A day off can help the body unwind and release that tension.
3. Reflect. We need time to stop and think. It is really hard to do that with the fast paced nature of the workweek.
4. Revel. How boring would life be without the opportunity to go play? A day off gives us the chance to do something fun that we enjoy.
5. Rejuvenate. We need time to renew our passion for work. Often times, as I relax and reflect on the weekends, I find the answer to problems that occurred during the past week. This gets me eager to implement the solution and move on.
Why are these five activities valuable? Because there is another five or six-day workweek ahead – and so on it goes for the majority of our adult life. Taking a break from work each week will help us be more efficient and actually enjoy our week more.
Nobody ever looks back at the end of their life and says “I wish I’d have worked more.” The top regrets of the dying reveal they would rather have spent more time with family and friends and found a passion that brought happiness and fulfillment.
Fight the urge to be a workaholic. Engage in the five R’s above more often. They may just keep you from becoming bored, uninteresting and snapping like Jack.
Questions: Have you ever lived by the mantra “all work and no play?” How many hours a week do you work? Would you consider yourself a workaholic? How has being a workaholic affected your life? Do you feel that you have a choice to work seven days a week or not? What do you like to do on your day off?
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