In the Hebrew Bible, pretty much the first commandment that the Israelites receive from God after being liberated from Egypt is the commandment to keep the Sabbath. Maybe their recent history of seven-day-a-week slavery meant that they had developed a compulsion to work without stopping ?
It’s certainly a weakness of our society. In an environment driven by consumption and control, we need to hear the command to stop and take that regular break from economic activity. It might just be the most important commandment, because by paying attention to it, we open ourselves up to hearing God – and, in the course of stopping and being attentive, we stand a chance of following the commandment to put God first.
There is however, a down side to the commandment to keep Sabbath – we run the risk of making our life of faith a one day a week affair when it is meant to be a whole of life endeavour. If we can keep the balance – make space for sabbath whilst at the same time living our faith every day – then that’s fine.
But is it possible that some societies have not succumbed to that desire for continous ‘work without ceasing’, but have been able to balance the various aspects of life in a wholesome and life enhancing way ?
Here’s a quote from ‘A book of Native American Wisdom.’ ‘In a Sacred Manner I Live.’
In the life of an indian there was only one inevitable duty – the duty of prayer – the daily recognition of the Unseen and Eternal. His daily devotions were more necessary to him than daily food. He wakes at daybreak, puts on his mocassins, and steps down to the water’s edge. Here he throws handfuls of clear, cold water into his face, or plunges in bodily. After the bath, he stands erect before the advancing dawn, facing the sun as it dances on the horizon, and offers his unspoken orison. His mate may precede or follow him in his devotiopns, but never accompanies him. Each soul must meet the morning sun, the new sweet earth, and the Great Silence alone.
Whenever, in the course of the daily hunt, the red hunter comes across a scene that is strikingly beautiful or sublime – a black thundercloud with the rainbow’s glowing arch above the mountain, a white waterfall in the heart of a green gorge; a vast prairie tinged with the blood-red of sunset – he pauses for an instant in the attitude of worship. He sees no need for setting apart one day in seven as a holy day, since to him all days are God’s.
Charles A. Eastman. Ohiyesa.
WAHPETON SIOUX Lakota
Charles A. Eastman (1858 – 1939) was one of the first Native American authors to achieve widespread fame.
May you find that place of spacious living that allows you live fully in God, for God to live in you.