A Consideration of Work and Rest from the Perspectives of Justification, Creation, and Eschatology -- By: Robert Owens

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 17:3 (Summer 2000)
Article: A Consideration of Work and Rest from the Perspectives of Justification, Creation, and Eschatology
Author: Robert Owens


A Consideration of Work and Rest from
the Perspectives of Justification, Creation, and Eschatology

Robert Owens

M.Div. Student
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587

On a recent edition of CNN’s TalkBack Live, a caller to the program complained about the difficulty of providing her children with the “American dream.” She described how things that used to be considered luxury items in our culture now are the minimum that a middle income family is expected to have. “Every mother would love to stay home with her children. But as great as the economy is, it is still not good enough for middle-class Americans to do it without both people working.” Another caller made the following comment, “We get a lot from work. It raises our self-esteem. It gives us an outlet. It helps us develop ourselves.” The program also cited statistics indicating that during the work week, men and women have less than two hours of free time per day.1

Where has our time gone? Is there a solution to our dilemma of too much work and too little rest? Should we strive at working “smarter,” thus freeing up more time for rest? What can be said to the increasingly common statement, “I have no time”? Assuming we do find the time for rest, how are we to rest in a way that is truly restful, and not just a hurried respite between periods of work?

There is much talk of relaxation and relaxation techniques, but the concept of rest has become unpopular. “Rest” evokes images of “rest homes,” “eternal rest,” or rest during sickness.2 Rest is nonproductivity. Since our modern culture defines worthwhile activity as that which produces an end product, rest has lost its attractiveness.3 This perverted view of our labor justifying our existence gives us a wrong basis for work and allows us to define rest only in terms of work. What is needed is a theological reevaluation of work and rest that approaches the problems of work and rest from basic theological foundations: creation, justification, and eschatology. This paper will attempt to do this first by considering biblical texts, then reviewing the historical outlook. Next it will show the basic theological problems with modern treatments of work and rest and offer a theological reformulation.

Before beginning, clarification should be made concerning definitions used in and the extent of this paper. The fundamental concern here is a theological

evaluation of work and rest. While theologic...

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