The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of rest and relaxation for both our physical and spiritual well-being. Here is an overview of some of the key biblical principles related to this topic:
God Rested on the Seventh Day of Creation
In Genesis 2:2-3, we read that on the seventh day after God’s work of creation, He rested from all His work. This shows us that rest is God’s design for His creation. If even God took a day of rest after working, how much more do we need rest, being finite human beings?
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)
The Sabbath Principle – Rest One Day a Week
The principle of Sabbath rest was established by God at creation. He ordained that His people should set aside one full day each week for rest and renewal. This commandment was formalized in the Ten Commandments given to Moses (Exodus 20:8-11). Jesus affirmed the importance of Sabbath rest, teaching that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). God knows we need this weekly cycle of work and rest.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
Jesus invites us to Physical Rest
Jesus cared about both the physical and spiritual needs of people. He demonstrated the importance of rest by inviting the weary and burdened to come to Him for rest (Matthew 11:28-30). He told His overtired disciples to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” after an intense time of ministry (Mark 6:31). We often get caught up in busyness and neglect our need for physical rejuvenation.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Sleep and Rest are Gods Gifts
The Bible presents sleep and rest as gifts from God that we should gratefully receive (Psalm 127:2). God made our bodies with a natural rhythm of sleep and wakefulness. Getting adequate sleep allows our bodies to recharge, preventing fatigue, lack of focus, irritability and other problems. Yet many of us sacrifice needed rest due to overscheduling. The Bible warns against loving sleep too much (Proverbs 20:13), but commends it as a gift to be enjoyed in balance.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:2)
Recreation and Enjoyable Activities Have Value
All work and no play is not God’s design. Along with rest, He blesses us with things like friendships, food, marriage and recreation for our enjoyment. After finishing His work of creation, God pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). He wants us to take delight in His good gifts. Ecclesiastes mentions there being “a time to laugh…a time to dance…a time to feast.” Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding feast! (John 2:1-11). God is not a cosmic killjoy – He wants us to experience joyful relaxation.
So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. (Ecclesiastes 8:15)
Balance Work and Rest
While laziness and slothfulness are discouraged in Scripture (Proverbs 13:4), so is excessive work with no rest. God calls us first to seek His kingdom, not endlessly labor for material gain (Matthew 6:33). The Preacher in Ecclesiastes laments how some people work constantly yet “their eyes do not rest” (Ecclesiastes 4:6-8). God cares about our emotional health and wants us to work in a sustainable, balanced rhythm, not in burnout mode.
And I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind.
God’s Presence Gives Us Rest
Most importantly, God promises us spiritual rest and refreshment as we abide in His presence. Jesus said “Come to me…and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). As we bring our burdens and worries to God in prayer, we experience peaceful rest in placing our trust in Him (Philippians 4:6-7). We cease from our own works and striving to enter God’s finished work and the gift of eternal life (Hebrews 4:9-10). His presence renews us even in the busiest times.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:11)
In summary, the Bible shows how God, in His goodness, provides everything we need – including times of rest and renewal. He intersperses seasons of work with appointed times of sacred rest and enjoyment. Rhythmically alternating between work and rest keeps our bodies, minds and spirits healthy and whole. As we learn to receive rest as a gift from God, we experience the peace and joy He desires for us.