Are you overworking?

Are you overworking? It’s easy to think the answer to that question lies in counting the number of hours you spend at work each week. Many of us have a magic line in the sand; is it 40 hours? 50? 60? 100?

A very peculiar incident from the Old Testament made me rethink the idea of working too hard. It’s a simple story  of a man out gathering wood, but it ends with very dire consequences:

“While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD commanded Moses” (Numbers 15:32-26).

Wow. Seems like a pretty abrupt and harsh way to go, doesn’t it?

That passage got under my skin. What does it tell us of God? Seriously, stoning the dude because he gathered some wood on the Sabbath?

In my mind, he’s old and frail, quietly going about and gathering wood to warm himself at night. Why not give this guy a break? Especially, when you read about Jesus’ response to the Pharisees when they were critical of the disciples picking some grain to eat on the Sabbath. He defended them: “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:23).

Why grace for one and not the other?

That question is not clearly answered in scripture. It’s left for us to trust God in his absolute perfect judgment toward this man. But I have a theory and it’s simply this: the man gathering wood did so deliberately at a time that gave him the most competitive advantage over his brothers. While everyone else was resting, observing the Sabbath, he was working. Could it be that he did so just to have the pick of the litter, so to speak? It was probably easier for him to gather wood when others weren’t around. Perhaps when he looked out at an open field, a day of rest was too much of a temptation and his anxiety got the better of him. Instead of trusting God to provide his needs for just a day, he snuck out to look out for number one. Unfortunately for him, it was the wrong number one.

In modern terms he was striving when he should be resting. You hear it in the humorous comment, “It’s Friday, only two more work days until Monday.”

To strive or to rest. That’s the choice we face when we pursue our dreams as well, regardless of whether it’s a full time pursuit. Our anxiety can lead us to work when we should rest, forgetting that God provides all the time we need to gather the wood we require.

What anxieties are keeping you from resting today?

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