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What If on the Sabbath Day, Nobody Rested?


Penalty rates, the extra pay workers in certain industries in Australia receive for working on weekends and public holidays are much in the news of late. Which raises an interesting question, what if on the Sabbath day, nobody rested?

It could be argued that the most beneficial, most famous and possibly the earliest piece of labour legislation was in the decalogue, the commandment to rest on the Sabbath day. Leaving aside the complexities of modern labour law and work that does need to continue 24/7 such as police and fire protection, what are the blessings of the traditional day of rest? What would we lose if we forgot the Sabbath and nobody rested, and what do we gain by remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy?

For Sabbath-keeping religions, the Sabbath is a day to worship, to reconnect with God and fellow worshippers. For families, the Sabbath is a day to enjoy one another's company without the workweek demands and distractions. For stressed and weary workers, it is a day to rest and recuperate. For those who are focused on buying and selling, it is an opportunity to pause and reflect on what is most important, that life is more than meat and the body is more than raiment.

In the words of James Russell Lowell, 

Earth gets its price for what Earth gives us;

The beggar is taxed for a corner to die in.

The priest hath his fee who comes and shrives us,

We bargain for the graves we lie in;

At the devil's booth are all things sold,

Each ounce of dross costs its ounce of gold;

For a cap and bells our lives we pay,

Bubbles we buy with a whole soul's tasking:

'Tis Heaven alone that is given away,

'Tis only God may be had for the asking...

Or in the words of William Wordsworth, “The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers...”

The Sabbath is a day given to us to refresh, recharge, and rebuild our God-given powers. It is a day to do good, and, refreshed and reoriented, to do good the rest of the week, good that we might otherwise miss or neglect. And what a great loss it would be if on the Sabbath day, nobody rested.  

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