The four-day workweek has gotten a lot of airtime recently, and maybe for good reason: when a Microsoft subsidiary gave it a shot over the summer, productivity spiked 40 percent. Now one Texas pastor is encouraging everyone to prioritize taking a little time off to rest.
Robert Morris, founding senior pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake, near Fort Worth, even argues in his new book, “Take the Day Off,” that not taking a day of rest — a Sabbath — is a form of sin.
The 58-year-old preacher told Faithwire he realized he needed to reprioritize rest when, several years ago, he endured what he now jokingly calls “the great underwear crisis of 2004.” He had just returned home from an overseas trip when he opened his underwear draw to find a single pair of clean underwear. Moments later, he pulled open his sock drawer and discovered he had no washed socks. Looking back, Morris sees now how silly his so-called “crisis” was, but at the time, it left him distraught and even in tears.
Morris, overtired, overworked, and overextended, was having a breakdown.
“That was when I started going to the Lord and the Lord started showing me the principle of resting one day a week, and what to do, and what not to do, and how to actually rest,” he recalled, something that came into focus for Morris as he read the 10 Commandments “over and over again.”
The fourth commandment outlined in Deuteronomy 5 is to “observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.”
People’s willingness to observe a day of rest by taking a break from their work, Morris said, is a good way to measure their trust in God and how much they truly believe “he’ll still provide” even if they don’t work seven days a week.
“If we will follow his principles in Scripture,” he said, “then he’ll provide for us. … If we live by the principles [in the Bible], there are blessings and there are benefits, and there are consequences if we don’t.”
Morris went on to explain most Christians “wouldn’t think of” breaking the other nine commandments found in the Old Testament. But the command to rest, he said, we often toss to the wayside, and “there are consequences for us if we violate that principle and there are huge benefits and blessings if we honor that principle.”
As it turns out, Morris is right — at least, it certainly appears that way.
In the summer of 1983, Time magazine ran a cover story titled, “The Epidemic of the Eighties,” an article that described stress as the leading health problem in the United States. More than 35 years later, not much has changed: an estimated 75 to 90 percent of doctor visits today are, at least to some degree, believed to be stress related. In addition, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
According to Morris, following the biblical command to rest is one of the best ways to reduce the dangerous levels of stress plaguing our society.
In his book, the pastor explained every person has “four tanks,” one that is mental, another that’s physical, one that is spiritual, and another that’s emotional. As each “tank” is filled, it’s then emptied into those around us, much “like these big fuel tanks that drive down the road and go to gas stations and fill up gas stations.”
“The Lord showed me, ‘You don’t like to just sit around and do nothing, so you just keep on driving to more gas stations. But what you don’t realize, Robert, is if you run out of fuel, you’re just running on fumes, and I really need you to go back to the refinery, and just sit down, and relax and rest so you can refuel others,’” Morris said.
If people started to get this right, he said, many of the problems impacting our culture — anger, anxiety, and certain mental health issues — could be reduced.
“Everyone who implements this principle comes back and tells me, ‘Thank you,’ if they heard it from me,” Morris recalled. “No one has ever said, ‘I started taking a day off, and it ruined my life.’ Everybody comes back and says, ‘That’s one of the best principles and practices I’ve ever implemented in my life.’”
To learn more about Morris’ “Take the Day Off,” or to order a copy, click here.