DR. LANDON GALLOWAY
In his renowned introduction to the Christian faith, “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis consistently presents the Christian worldview using a language of “neither this, nor that.” This perspective finds its most lucid expression in the chapter called “Two Notes.” Within this chapter, he skillfully refutes both radical individualism and complete human uniformity, leading to the following conclusion:
“I feel a strong desire to tell you – and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me – which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.”
Lewis is aware of the fallen human condition. We perceive our world through a simplistic dualistic lens—constantly pitting one thing against another. Good versus evil. Within this perspective, Christians may distance themselves from the “enemy” and, instead, gravitate towards the most extreme and unconventional opposites to demonstrate their allegiance.
However, what if this approach is subtly perilous? What if evil is genuine, but far more cunning than we’ve imagined?
From the times of ancient philosophers like Aristotle, virtue has been envisioned as a balanced state between two vices—one of excess and the other of deficiency. While evil manifests in various forms, goodness remains singular. The struggle for morality and truth doesn’t merely involve light against darkness, but rather light contending against darkness in its various forms.
I would like to apply the logic of Aristotle and Lewis to the work and rest rhythms of Christian leaders. In recent years, Christian writers, pastors, and thinkers have rightfully reclaimed the Sabbath as integral to Christian discipleship. Sabbath-keeping reflects the good design of God’s creative order. God created the world in six days, then rested on the Sabbath. In Genesis 2:3, we find that He blesses this day and makes it holy. In the Creation narrative, living creatures are blessed and told to increase in number. Human beings are blessed and told to be fruitful and multiply. The Sabbath is a blessed day. It brings multiplication. When we rest, we can get more done in six days than we could if we worked all seven.
God works, and God rests, and He calls us to participate in this sacred rhythm. He commands that we keep it holy, set apart. In fact, God calls the Sabbath holy before He calls anything else holy. For Christians, holy time precedes holy places and holy people. Later in the story of Israel, God adds the nuance of revolt to Sabbath:
“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Deut. 5:15)
When they were slaves, they worked around the clock. In the Exodus account, Pharaoh repeatedly expressed concern that the Israelites weren’t working. The primary task assigned to the Israelites was the building of supply cities, which were used to store their excess stuff. The Sabbath is to set them free from that bondage and to revolt against the worldview that says that life is all about what you can produce.
Pharaoh is alive and well. We are constantly told that we should work more. Technology has demanded that we remain available around the clock. Employers, clients, and church members expect immediate responses. We all know intuitively that the pace of the modern world is unsustainable. If one prefers verifiable data to back up this assertion, all that is necessary is a quick perusal of the statistics surrounding the effects of depression and anxiety on our society.
Christian leaders are especially susceptible to Pharaoh’s demands, because we are in the business of saving souls and doing the work of God. The term “pastor” or “minister,” is interpreted differently by the various members of our churches, so we find ourselves trying to meet everyone’s needs and fulfill everyone’s expectations. We feel the pressure to not only do the things on our actual job descriptions, but also all things that others have decided should be on our job descriptions. The result has been burnout, moral failure, and family upheaval. That is why so many books on Sabbath and rest have been published, and that is why you will often hear wise and seasoned preachers say things like, “Don’t sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry.”
I believe in that message with everything that is in me. I’ve read all the books and amen’d all the sermons. But, I’m starting to wonder if our sly adversary hasn’t pulled the wool over our eyes. To correct the error of overwork, there is a temptation to take refuge in underwork. By standing up to Pharaoh and declaring that we would no longer burn the candle at both ends, have we failed to burn the candle at even one end? Yes, God rested on the seventh day. But, He worked on the other six! This particularly applies to those of us honored enough to receive a paycheck from the church. We need to rest. We need Sabbath. But, we also need to faithfully execute the tasks which God assigns us and for which our church compensates us.
Paul exhorts the Ephesians to live purposefully. He writes: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil,” (Eph. 5:15-16). The Greek verb translated here, “look carefully,” is an accounting term. It connotes exactness, accuracy, and diligence. Paul wants his followers to examine their walks, the rhythms of their lives, with the same diligence as an auditor reviewing financial statements. He desires that they “redeem their time.” The redemption of the time addresses two common errors of how we view time.
Error One is the “life as a race” mentality that your value is measured by your productivity, so use your time to prove your worth. Start the side hustle. Take the masterclass. Learn all the productivity hacks. Never miss a meeting. Cancel vacations. Work yourself to the bone to build bigger barns, so that you can sit back and say, “Soul, look what I’ve accomplished.” (See Luke 12:19.)
Error Two is the “life as rest” mentality that elevates your needs above everything else. Don’t sacrifice your time or energy. Do what makes you happy. Let someone else stress. Take tomorrow off, since you put in a full eight hours today. Even though Jesus says we will be known by our love for one another, He surely meant that we would be known by how well we love and take care of ourselves.
The truth is in the messy middle. We work hard, and we work smart, because our days are evil. We go to the office or the library or the factory, because we have meaningful work to do. We set priorities, eliminate distractions, and capitalize on the time we have been given. We schedule space to read, to learn, to create, to produce, and to think. We don’t spend the bulk of our time on the urgent. We identify the important tasks, the things that only we can do. And, then we do them with all of our hearts, as to God and not man. We may abhor busy work, but we have no problem keeping busy and doing work.
AND, we rest hard. We seek out self-care and do things that bring us joy. We pursue hobbies and travel as often as our time and budgets will allow. We embrace good food and good art as common graces. We silence our cell-phones. We spend uninterrupted hours with God and evenings with our families as often as possible. We create “not-to-do-lists,” so that we aren’t always hurried and frazzled. We refuse to allow other people’s expectations to control us. Our value is not in whether the project was turned in on time, so we Sabbath guilt-free even when items on the to-do list remain unchecked.
The light of “redeeming the time” pushes back against the darkness of the “life as a race” mentality, and the “life as rest” mentality.
Dr. Landon Galloway has been the director of DLI since 2011. He is responsible for devising DLI’s unique, online platform that allows students to obtain formal educational training while gaining practical experience in their own local church.
In addition to his role, Landon has also served as a pastor at Grace Church in Houston, TX since 2017.
He earned the Bachelor of Arts in History at Mississippi State University, the Master of Divinity and the Master of Arts in Biblical Language from Oral Roberts University, and the Masters of Theology and Doctor of Philosophy from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His primary research interest is the rhetorical and literary features of the New Testament narratives, particularly Luke-Acts.
Landon is happily married to Sarada, and they are the proud parents of two daughters, Vanna and Zarra.
This article was originally published in the 2023 Fall Edition of the Destiny Magazine. You can find the online edition here.