Excuses, Excuses: Why We Don’t Practice Sabbath Rest

Oh, maybe a few.

During our family’s year of Sabbath-keeping, I began collecting a list of objections people had to the idea of a dedicated time for rest and play. These were things I heard personally, statements I read in other books on Sabbath, or things I even told myself during our experiment.

I wrestled with many of these objections in the book, but by no means all. Some issues feel intractable and defy pat answers—if you are caregiving an ailing parent who needs you around the clock, Sabbath may feel impossible. Some objections are situational—people who work on the weekends or are always on call. And some objections show a limited or mistaken understanding of Sabbath—we didn’t do explicitly faith-based activities on Sabbath, for example, although as we’ve already established, I’m an unapologetic Sabbath heretic.

But some of our objections can be worked through. Some of the stuff we tell ourselves is nothing more than self-defeating talk. Some of it comes from inertia—the insanity I know is better than the Sabbath I don’t know, because being “idle and blessed” (Mary Oliver) can bring up stuff about ourselves, some of which we’re not too keen to face.

But I love a good gripe-fest. There’s something satisfying about seeing all the resistance out in the open: pulling the clutter out of the closet and beholding it, in all its messy, disheveled glory.

Which is where you come in. Here is my list of Sabbath excuses. Which of these resonate with you?

What would you add to this list?


Sabbath isn’t relevant for our 24-7 world time. Sabbath is a relic of a bygone era.

I don’t have time.

I’m fine. I’m happy. I don’t need to rest.

We observed the Sabbath when I was a kid. It was SO boring. I swore I’d never do that again.

I’d rather not spend a day doing faith-based activities, quietly reading the Bible, whatever.

My kids would never agree to it.

My teenagers would never agree to it.

Sabbath is a Jewish (or Christian) practice, and I don’t practice that religion. We shouldn’t co-opt a practice not our own.

I already make time to rest from my work and don’t need a fancy title for it.

People who have time to take Sabbath rest obviously don’t have enough to do.

There are so many problems plaguing our world—how can you sit around and “be spiritual” while there is suffering happening that you could help alleviate through your life and work?

You can rest when you’re dead. Life is too short.

The seven-day week is a false construct. Rest when you need to, not when the calendar tells you to.

Technology means you can work when you want and rest when you want—taking a whole day is a false construct. Be more fluid and intuitive about when you need to work and rest.

It shows a lack of sensitivity to the needs of others—face it, sometimes people need you on that day. The vast majority of the world doesn’t observe Sabbath—they’re just going to see you as selfish if you’re not available.

Sabbath is a practice of privilege—other people have to work during your Sabbath—how can you enjoy that time of rest when other people don’t have that luxury?

Sabbath just creates more work. I spend the day beforehand getting ready for it and the day after cleaning up from it.

Of course you can do this, your kids are young. They aren’t in that many activities yet.

Your kids will miss out on opportunities to play sports, do drama/speech team, marching band, etc. They won’t get into college because you’ve had to say no to these extracurricular activities.

That’s what vacation is for.

That’s what retirement is for.

Kids are constant work, so you might as well embrace it. Life with kids is work no matter what you do.

My kids are very active and energetic. They’d be in all kinds of mischief if we all just sat around all day.


Your turn…


About MaryAnn

pastor, writer, haphazard knitter
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6 Responses to Excuses, Excuses: Why We Don’t Practice Sabbath Rest

  1. Grace Burson says:

    Mine is “I’d rather have a micro-Sabbath every day [my quiet evenings on the couch] than cram 7 days of craziness into 6 and then rest ALL day on the 7th.”

    I still haven’t figured out whether this is legitimate, or an excuse. I do know that after two days without the nightly couch-sitting, I’m totally fried.

    • MaryAnn says:

      I wrestle with this some in the book because a lot of people told me that. For me it was not enough to have daily couch time. It felt like just enough sabbath that I wasn’t thirsty anymore, but I was never actually sated by it.

      But I wonder if that’s one of those things that’s individual, and/or whether we go through seasons when that’s more helpful than an entire day.

  2. Head nodding as I read these comments – I have thought many of them myself – but am still a big proponent of living the Sabbath lifestyle. It does take self discipline and planning which frankly is tough for most of us. My biggest challenge is this: Sunday is my sabbath day, I am exhausted from the workweek on Saturday and so tend to not want to cram in the weekend chores (grocery shopping, etc.) so those get relegated to Sunday when I’d really prefer to be properly observing the Sabbath.

    Just received your book in the mail yesterday and am anxious to read that for tips to do this right. Thanks for helping us get there!

  3. Heather says:

    Your books arrived last night for the book group I’ll be leading at my church. I am so looking forward to discussing it with folks in my faith community. Your thoughtfulness, honesty and beautiful writing are both comforting and challenging. Thank you much!

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