Doctrine & Practice Faith rns-ee-migration

“24/6” (My Last Sabbath Post This Year, I Promise)

I have a confession: after boldly trumpeting here on the blog that I don't turn on my computer from Saturday night to Monday morning, this weekend I violated my own rule. (It was the Olympic Games, see, and I was desperate to know how the gymnastics competition was going, see . . . .) And you know what? I don't feel very rested this week. Matthew Sleeth's forthcoming book 24/6 (out in November) explains this emptiness, arguing that the Sabbath isn't a luxury but a necessity.

Oh. I guess I needed a reminder.

24/6 is a very good book. Sleeth, a doctor, shares a lot of stories from his medical practice, which I enjoyed. He has a down-to-earth writing style that many readers will identify with.

Some portions of 24/6 look at how to establish a rhythm of Sabbath rest, including unplugging, having retreats, being out in nature, etc. We've talked here about some of those strategies throughout this month of focusing on the Sabbath. (It turns out that Sleeth, like me, has the tradition of a special “Sunday book” that's only read on that day.)

Apart from the helpful and concrete how-to suggestions, though, Sleeth's primary concern is always why we're told to keep the Sabbath. There are all kinds of very human reasons that regular rest helps us be happier and healthier, as the subtitle promises. Keeping the Sabbath reduces stress, allows for deep thought, creates needed social time with family and friends, etc.

But there's an important theological point too: the Sabbath teaches us how to be more like God. Sleeth writes:

…something very important about the character of God is revealed: God stops.

Stopping is a problem for humans. We get a comfortable house, and then want a bigger one. We get enough to eat, and then we want more.

God doesn't need to rest after creating the universe because he's tired. He rests because he is holy, and everything that God does is holy. God rests. God is holy. Therefore, rest is holy. It's simple math.

Rest shows us who God is. He has restraint. Restraint is not doing everything that one has power to do. We must never mistake God's restraint for weakness. The opposite is true. God shows restraint; therefore, restraint is hold. (pp. 27-28)

So this weekend I'm redoubling my efforts to exert no effort.


About the author

Jana Riess

Since 2008, Jana Riess has been an acquisitions editor in the publishing industry, primarily acquiring in the areas of religion, history, popular culture, ethics, and biblical studies. From 1999 to 2008, she was the Religion Book Review Editor for Publishers Weekly, and continues to write freelance articles and reviews for PW as well as other publications.

She holds degrees in religion from Wellesley College and Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in American religious history from Columbia University. She speaks often to media about issues pertaining to religion in America, and has been interviewed by the Associated Press, Time, Newsweek, People, the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsday, among other print publications, as well as “Voice of America,” the "Today" show, MSNBC, and NPR’s “All Things Considered,” “Tell Me More,” and “Talk of the Nation.” 

She is the author, co-author, or editor of nine books, including Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor; What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as a Spiritual Guide; Mormonism for Dummies; and The Writer’s Market Guide to Getting Published. She blogged for Beliefnet before coming to RNS in 2012.