In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller makes the case that “the commandments of God…are a means of liberation, because through them God calls us to be what he built us to be.” “Of course!” I say to myself.
Then he says something which completely catches me by surprise: “And so it is with work, which (in rhythm with rest) is one of the Ten Commandments.”
God commanded work in the Ten Commandments? I mean, I know there’s the cultural mandate to “subdue” the earth in Genesis, but work was commanded in the Ten Commandments? Where? I’ve read the Ten Commandments hundreds of times and I don’t remember seeing this!
Then he quotes Exodus 20:9: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.”
Wait. I don’t remember this. At all! But I know the Ten Commandments! So I look it up. And here it is in full:
Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your town.
There it is.
My goodness. All these years, I have managed to read this commandment hundreds of times and somehow managed to glaze over the first clause, the first imperative, the first “shall,” and go straight to the second clause, the second imperative, the second “shall” (or more precisely, “shall not.”)
What a gem of a discovery for me! I don’t quite know why, but it feels wonderful to have discovered that God actually commanded work in the Ten Commandments, in conjunction with rest. It is as though, previously, I’ve subconsciously appreciated God for designating a rest day in the midst of work that is like a necessary evil, but now, I realize work itself is a gift from God, just as much as rest is, commanded to us and commanded for us.
Thank you, Tim Keller!
And thank you, God!