Diligent work is good and necessary. However, Psalm 127 reminds us that we cannot truly be productive apart from the Lord. Whether we are “building houses” or “watching over the city,” the psalmist teaches us that we need to be engaged in the Lord’s work. All other work is vain or empty. Whatever tasks He has called you to, pray that you will be wisely working according to His will and for His glory.
Work, however, is not the only calling that the believer has. We are also called to rest: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Ps. 127:2). In ancient times, short-term survival was usually connected to work. If the people’s houses were not well built, they could die of exposure. If their cities were not secure, there would be no refuge from invaders. These dangers could lead to desperate and feverish work. Diligent leaders or parents might be tempted to burn the midnight oil as they completed the tasks necessary to ensure survival. Instead of ultimately trusting the Lord to provide their daily bread, they could slip into eating the bread of anxious toil.
The anxious toil described in Psalm 127 is a symptom of “practical atheism.” Those who engage in it are denying their dependence on God. Those who fail to rest sufficiently are denying His blessing on their livelihood. It is sad to think that long hours seem to be less about survival and more about affluence for some in our society. If you find yourself unwilling to take sufficient rest, have you considered what that may say about your soul? Could it evidence a lack of trust in your heavenly Father (Matt. 6:26)?
I do not want to discourage anyone from diligent work, but a lack of willingness to take appropriate rest and times of renewal may be a sign of spiritual danger. Postponing sleep, avoiding Sabbaths, and failing to relax are not good signs. For those who do have healthier patterns, worry and anxiety may also betray a mind that refuses to rest. Ultimately, such symptoms might possibly betray an underlying lack of trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 3:19 speaks of Israelites who were unable to enter rest “because of unbelief.” After the ten spies brought back a negative report in Numbers 13–14, they failed to trust that the Lord would preserve them through the battles ahead. Instead of settling into the promised land, they lived out the remainder of their lives wandering in the wilderness. The warning to the Hebrew church was that retreating to works would be to abandon hope of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Laziness is indeed a sin (Prov. 15:19). Taking appropriate rest, however, is an indicator of spiritual health. More importantly, resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ is a matter of spiritual life and death. Take your rest, both spiritual and physical, as a gift from God. Enjoy your rest.