About Sabbath and sleep


You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the Lord. Anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.

Exodus 31:15

This seems harsh.  Why would some get punished so severely for not keeping the Sabbath?  Honestly, the sabbath day has been a topic of discussion amongst many theologians and philosophers alike.  Nobody seems to be excited about obeying the Sabbath under New Testament grace.  

I am not writing this to discuss the theological implications of keeping or breaking the Sabbath.  I would rather want to look at how God designed our bodies to rest.  This is one of the main reasons I consider the sabbath today.  Let’s look at the importance of rest.

  1. Moral law

    God included the rest day as part of a set of moral laws we should keep.  When we look at the ten commandments reflectively, we can all agree that these ten rules will keep you safe in this world.  No matter what your opinion on grace and forgiveness, we can all agree that stealing, killing, lying and the others are still unacceptable today.  We might say that only some commandments apply, but that is not true.  To rest is so vitally important that God made it a moral obligation for us.  This means, failure to rest is equal to lying and murder.  Hopefully, the rest of these points might convince you why. 

  2. Emotional stability

    When you don’t get enough sleep, you will have a greater risk of depression and stress.  During the fifth sleep stage called REM (Rapid Eye movement) sleep, you brain deals with the data that was input during the day.  It trashes the unnecessary emotions you picked up today.  

    During this REM sleep cycle, you are naturally balancing out your fears and anxieties and regulating your emotions.  God designed us to live in love and peace, and deep sleep is one of the most important designs to help us regulate our emotions.  When people do not get enough sleep, they will become irritable and unable to expel negative emotions.  A long-term build-up of negative emotions will bring you to a place where you cannot forgive and live in love like God wants us to.  

    This is another good reason rest is included in the moral law.  Reflect on the ten commandments for a moment.  When you have love in your heart, you will break none of God’s top ten.  A lack of sleep will eventually cause a lack of love.  This will naturally drive you to act selfishly.

  3. Physical well-being

    According to sleep expert Dr. Matt Walker, a man who sleeps 4-5 hour a night will smaller testicles than a man who sleeps 8 or more hours a night.  He will also have a level of testosterone similar to a man 10 years his senior.  A lack of sleep will significantly age you faster than you should.  Similar problems can occur in female reproductive organs if they do not sleep enough.

    Poor sleep can also cause an increase in heart disease, risk of a stroke, and type 2 diabetes.  Poor sleep is also a reason people might pick up weight.  Your body's immune system also is significantly stronger when you have a good night’s sleep.  Cutting four hours of sleep for one night decreases your natural killer cell activity with 75% according to Dr Walker.  This makes a lack of sleep a carcinogenic activity, according to the WHO, because these natural killer cells actively fight cancer. 

    Good sleep is vital for a good healthy body.  We might get to understand why God thought it so vital to rest and therefore made this a moral requirement for us. 

  4. Memory and learning

    After you have studied or learned something new, sleep helps to reset your brain.  Sleep helps to store the info in your brains library so you do not forget.  More than sleeping after you’ve learned, you need to clear your brain before you learn as well.  It is like clearing a sponge of water to make more room for new information.  Without proper sleep, we cannot “make new memories” because your brain cannot absorb new data. 

    Sleep deprivation will shut down your memory inbox.  You have no room left for new data if you do not sleep and get the library in order.  

  5. Greed

    We desire too much.  In our modern world, we have brought sunlight inside and light up our nights so we can work longer hours.  It is all about work and earning more.  The greed that drives us will bring us to a place of burn-out.  Unfortunately, sleep cannot accumulate like a bank account.  We cannot lose sleep and catch it up later.  You need to stay in a regular rhythm and within a routine to get your body to be healthy.  God designed this seven-day rhythm for us to make sure we are not burning ourselves out.  But greed makes us look the other way and ignore God’s commands and design. 

    We should have faith in God’s design and trust He will take good care of us. Then greed and desire will not drive us to have more and more.  Love will drive us for God and others.  This love cannot flourish in a person who does not rest.

Ignoring God’s command to rest will guarantee you a short, unhappy life.  Let’s take care of our bodies for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Take care of your body. Get at least 8 hours of good quality sleep per night. Take a day per week to do NOTHING. Just rest. Get your rhythms in place. Eat healthy. Exercise. Take care of your body and your body will take care of you.