Two friends had been looking for work for a long time, which weighed heavily upon them, as they each had a family to take care of. They were attending a course called "Christianity and Work" that I was teaching at my church. During the course, they reflected very openly on their unemployment, and they were particularly bothered by questions about their identity. Is my value dependent on my relevance in the working world? How much do I identify myself with the work I do? What impact does unemployment have on me?
Our attention was drawn to their testimonies, and we realised how important our jobs are to our identity. God has ordained a day without work for each week – the Sabbath – to remind us that our identity is not determined by our jobs.
The Jews were robbed of the Sabbath rest. As slaves, they had to labour incessantly in the Pharaoh’s service. They were trapped in a system that exploited them and exercised absolute domination over God’s creation. However, God would not accept the status-quo. He freed His people from slavery. In the desert outside of Egypt, the Jews were able to celebrate the Sabbath once again. While worshipping God, they were reminded of their deepest and truest identity: They were the chosen and loved people of God.
That is why the Sabbath is pivotal for us all. When we worship God and have fellowship with one another, we experience that by giving, we always also receive. We are more than what we do and what we achieve. Ultimately our identity and dignity are found in acknowledging that we are – undeservingly – beloved children of God.
Work helps us in building our character, but our value as a person is not determined by what we do. On our day of rest, we get to distance ourselves from our work and experience God’s closeness anew. With the help of the Sabbath rest ordained by God, we receive peace. Our worth as human beings is based on our relationship with God.
The two friends who attended the course have reflected extensively on their identity. During a difficult time they have learned that God loves them, regardless of their occupation or their achievements. As a result, they have found a sustaining and encouraging perspective for their lives.
Lord, we try helplessly to find shelter in You, but we do not know how to. Influenced by our daily lives, we focus solely on our achievements, even though we are yearning for approval and love.
Thank You for loving us first. Thank You for giving us Your love unconditionally. Thank You for nurturing us, and our souls, and for providing us with everything we need. There is no need for any supplementary “vitamins."
Lord, help us to understand our hunger as a desire for You. Help us to be nourished by Your love. Show us how to be in Your presence daily and guide us always. Amen.
Gisela Kessler-Berther, MAS in Theology, different leadership functions in health and education sector, Switzerland.