How we rest and how long we rest are very subjective matters on this side of the Fall. The most important thing is that we take time to rest in some capacity so that we can do our work—filled with pain and difficulty and opposition—and do so in such a way that God gets all the praise and the glory.
If, as I argued last time, we all need to rest, then this raises an immediate question: what do we do with passages in the Bible which seem to suggest that even a small amount of rest is enough to destroy us? Take Proverbs 6:10-11 and 24:33-34, for instance, both of which say the same exact thing:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
According to these verses, even a little sleep and a little rest is too much if we want to stay out of the poor house and be able to provide for ourselves and our families. If that is true, then why in the world would I argue in my last article that we all need to rest?
In answering this question, we need to begin by remembering that the three most important rules of real estate—location, location, location—apply to biblical interpretation as well. In order to understand what these two proverbs are intending to say, therefore, we need to first understand the context in which they are located. In both of these cases, we can readily see that the context is aimed at addressing laziness and foolishness. Rather than providing general wisdom for all people without distinction, these two proverbs are instead specifically speaking to the “sluggard” and to the “man lacking sense.”
As human beings, we are all different. We have different personalities, different motivations, and different experiences that have shaped us and made us who we are today. Some of us struggle with working too much, and we may need to be reminded of the importance of rest. Those of us who tend in this direction would benefit from having the passages that we mentioned last time held before our eyes consistently. Others of us, however, struggle with resting too much, and we may need to be reminded of the importance of work. We require passages like these two proverbs to be held before us, which are obviously designed to challenge our affinity for rest and relaxation.
But we may also require passages like Genesis 2:15 to be consistently held before us, especially when it is taken alongside of Genesis 3:15-19. These two passages taken together imply that work is a creation ordinance which was given to humankind from the very beginning but was later corrupted when sin entered into the world. The implication that arises from them is that work and rest always went together perfectly before the Fall. Work was not wearisome before the Fall nor was it laborious. It was wholly restful all the time. We know this is true, because Genesis 3:17-19 highlights the radical change that sin brought upon our work. All our labors from this point forward involve “sweat” and “pain” and thoroughgoing opposition for the rest of our lives.