The Theology of Play

Originally posted by Luke Navaro on Innroads Ministries Nov. 30, 2013. Original post

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. It is easy to worship God as Creator. Really we do it all the time. We praise the Creator in our songs, in our prayers and even in our theology. When we sing to the Creator we join a long line of Christians and ancient Israelites before them who did the same. As it happens we are joining a much larger crowd of witnesses than we might at first expect. Very nearly all religions that employ a god as creator motif praise their god for having created. It is as close to a religious absolute as exists. There is though one element of the Judeo-Christian story that sets apart our Creator. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… and then he took a break.

In time that break would become one of the central tenants of the Jewish faith. Rest on the seventh day, called the Sabbath, was a distinctive so significant that it was inscribed on stone in the founding document of the Israelite nation. Ancient Israelites were to remember the Sabbath and set it apart. The question becomes set apart for what?

In its original appearance the Sabbath was a break from work. The Israelites were to follow God’s example by ceasing work on one day of the week. As history unfolded we learn at least three reasons why God asked his people to rest. The first reason was practical. The Sabbath was for restoration. God understood than people need physical rest in order to function best. This principle was even extended to the livestock and the land. Official Israelite agricultural policy stated that the land was to lie fallow one year out of seven. The second reason for Sabbath was social. Israelites used the Sabbath to celebrate. They held their political, social and religious festivals on Sabbath days. Finally the third reason was spiritual. The Sabbath taught the people to rely on God. Remember that the Israelites were largely subsistence farmers and herders. Imagine the faith required to allow a field to not produce for an entire year or to watch as a prized sheep is heavy with a lamb on the Sabbath.

A quick look at our culture might tempt you to think that we have one up on the Israelites. We take a two day break each week. We call it a weekend. Yet if we look closer how well do we really follow the Sabbath? Do we take two days, or even one apart from the stresses of work. Does your smart phone keep you connected to your company day in and day out? Is your weekend as full with chores, side jobs and stresses as your weekday? Do we celebrate together? When was the last time you joined your community in a party? And finally do we trust God with our financial stability enough to stop working? For many Americans our jobs do not ask us to plow fields or manage animals. For many of us our jobs take place largely in our minds. Can we trust God enough to set aside thoughts of work and focus on our family, friends and churches?

At Innroads Ministries we believe that gaming together is a perfect act of Sabbath. We play games together.  We laugh and sometimes moan. We set aside our worries as we set apart a portion of our life.

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