There is a phrase that has stuck with me since I first heard it in Sabbath school at 12 years old.
“Busy is an acronym for Being Under Satan’s Yoke.” If asked to describe ourselves, odds are the first thing we’ll say is our job. For many of us what we do is who we are. Though coined in 1971, the 1980s was when the word “workaholic” was considered a virtue.
However, the 2010s was when overworking was glamorized into an aesthetic. With the rise of self-made entrepreneurship, buzzwords like “girl boss” “the grind” and “hustle” gained traction. No longer chasing company loyalty, “entrepreneurs” (a wax-like term ready to be molded to any definition) had more autonomy, but fewer boundaries. What few boundaries remained were obliterated during quarantine.
Books, studies and countless articles have documented the damaging effects of Hustle Culture. So why has it prevailed?
In short, Hustle Culture speaks to an ingrained narrative introduced by sin. This narrative says work is life, taking the place of pleasure with productivity as a sign of worth. And success is a god that we must suffer in isolation to appease. Anyone who does not abide by this lifestyle is classified as weak, unable to keep up with the alpha pace in a sociological survival of the fittest. It isn’t a coincidence the Sabbath fosters a challenging narrative.
A divine commitment
In Genesis 2:2, God created the Sabbath day and said it was “very good.” Exodus 20:8-11 and other verses speak to God making the Sabbath holy, with no labor being done by you or anyone within your sphere. Throughout Christ’s ministry, we are given consistent examples of Jesus observing the Sabbath and taking regular rest.
For those who believe their worth is in how much they produce, the Sabbath’s identity as a day of rest is a threat. Sabbath reminds us that our worth and value are not in our work but in our identity in God. It is redefining the foundation of our pursuits.
When Adam and Eve were created, the first thing they did was observe the Sabbath. For a modern mind, Sabbath’s place seems unnecessary within an Edenic existence. This was before the fall, before work was a drain, before back-to-back zoom calls that could have been an email, and before stressful economies.
We tend to view Sabbath as a post-fall response to a sinful world; however, it being the first activity Adam and Eve experienced on earth is profound. By Adam and Eve’s first full day being the Sabbath, God was setting the precedent for their lives. In his book The Lost Meaning of the Seventh-day Sabbath, author Sigve Tonstad states”[The Sabbath’s] primary message is not human duty, but divine commitment… the seventh day brings to view God’s priorities.”
Sin reverses our identity and desires on a DNA level. Hustle Culture is a reversal of our intended identity and our attitude toward work and rest. Success has become a god in modern culture: we sacrifice for it, place our identity on it, and neglect basic wellness in pursuit of it. Where Sabbath is a practice in contentment, success is, at its core, a bid for immortality. In a brutal pursuit of personal brand, many believe isolation is necessary, seeing others as low-level competitors. Within this narrative, contentment equals stagnation, and easy is the enemy. Therefore, the more suffering one endures on the journey, the greater their validity. The existence of a holy day is a weekly monument to our humanity.
Leviticus 23:3 reminds us the Sabbath is a day of “sacred assembly,” highlighting a healthy community. It also reminds us hard work, though infinitely valuable, does not discern our worth. Most of all, it reminds us that our salvation has nothing to do with us. We do not need to “earn” salvation, any more than we need to “earn” rest.
The Sabbath, celebrated joyfully, is an Edenic remnant and an active reversal of Hustle Culture.
By Nicole Dominguez