My teenage sons have introduced me to the rock group Cage the Elephant. I especially like their song entitled Aint No Rest for the Wicked. In the song the story-teller/singer encounters three different people: a prostitute, a mugger, and a preacher who got caught stealing all the "righteous dollar bills" from the church. In each verse the singer asks these three various people why they have chosen their particular life, and in each case the response is the same chorus.
Oh, there aint no rest for the wicked.
Money don't grow on trees.
I got bills to pay, I got mouths to feed;
There aint nothin' in this world for free.
I can't slow down. I can't hold back.
Though you know I wish I could.
Oh no, there aint no rest for the wicked
Until we close our eyes for good.
I was interviewed yesterday about the role of the Sabbath in the Scriptures and Cage the Elephant came immediately to mind. They give us the perfect testimony of the "way of the world" if you will. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount called the life of worry the way of the Gentiles. The Gentiles, preaches Jesus, are fixated on what they are going to eat, what they are going to wear, and where they are going to live. They are driven not only by their desires but by their fears that there will never be enough.
To be a people shaped by a Sabbath mentality, in contrast, is to live a life of trust that the God who feeds the birds, clothes the lilies, and grows the grass also will care for those created in his own image.
I have been writing today about some of the myths that shape us as a culture. Myths like:
- The myth of value: This myth says that what I eat, what I wear, (what I drive), and where I live add value to who I am as a person or even define in many ways my worth. (Isn't it interesting that when we talk about how much money a particular person has we will ask, "What is he or she worth?").
- The myth of consumption: This culture story says that I am, by nature, empty and need to be filled. Usually this myth says I am just one purchase away from happiness. (A capitalistic culture, BTW, needs to keep this myth going or the economy shuts down. Contented people are horrible for capitalism).
- The myth of scarcity: Walter Brueggemann argues that the one of the main purposes of the OT is to break us out of the fear that there will never be enough good things to go around. The myth of scarcity means that if we have good resources then we should hoard them. God wants to teach his people to trust in his goodness and to believe that there is enough for all to share. (Pharaoh builds more storehouses. God gives his people manna day-by-day in the wilderness).
- The myth of control: Super-powers are built in part by convincing people that they are eternal and secure. God sent ten plagues to let Pharaoh know that he didn't have as much control over life as he thought he did. Maybe God can use a horrible recession to remind us all that economic and political security is a myth.
I realize that a guy with two full-time jobs should not be doing interviews (or blog) about Sabbath-keeping and rest, but I do think the purpose of the Sabbath is to form a different mentality in God's people. Sabbath is a discipline that keeps us from finally giving in to the impulse to be defined by work and by gain. In the end, it is God's goodness, and not our strivings, that bring life to us. God's people work hard, but they find ways to rest, trust, and find balance.
I think Cage the Elephant is right. There aint no rest for the wicked. But a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God... Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest (Hebrews 4:9-11).