Unwrapping the Gift of Sabbath

By Mark D. Roberts

September 5, 2023

Unwrapping God’s Gift of Rest

Scripture — Mark 2:27 (NRSV)

Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath.”


Jesus said that the sabbath “was made for humankind.” God created the sabbath as a gift for us. Some of us have unwrapped this gift and delight in it. Others of us have still to unwrap it. Scripture will show us how to embrace the sabbath for God’s glory and our good.

Series: Unwrapping the Gift of Sabbath


During the week prior to my daughter’s fifth birthday, I labored in secret to make her a large cradle for her many dolls. On her actual birthday, I was excited to present this gift to Kara. Because it was large, I hadn’t wrapped it but had hidden it in a safe place. When it was time for opening gifts, I retrieved the cradle and presented it to Kara . . . who promptly began to cry. “It’s not wrapped,” she sobbed. “It’s not wrapped.”

Thinking quickly, I said, “Oh, pretend you’ve never seen this and I’ll be right back.” So I scurried away, found some wrapping paper and ribbon, and wrapped the cradle Kara had already seen.

This time, when I presented the speedily wrapped present to Kara, she seemed genuinely thrilled. She tore off the paper and cried out, this time with joy, “I love this. A cradle for my dolls! Thank you, Daddy!” When she learned that I had made it for her by hand, she was even more ecstatic. Everything was so, so perfect . . . as long as Kara had a gift she needed to unwrap.

God has given us many gifts, of course, more than we can count. Some are wonderfully obvious, like the gift of newborn life. Some gifts, however, are not quite as obvious. They need to be unwrapped.

One of these gifts-needing-unwrapping is rest, or to use the official biblical term, sabbath. How do we know rest is a gift from God to us? Though there is ample biblical evidence for this, we need to look no further than what Jesus said in Mark 2:27, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath.” From this verse we learn that sabbath isn’t some peculiar human tradition. It is something made by God. Moreover, the fact that the sabbath was made “for humankind” implies that sabbath – regular rest – is a good gift from God. God established the sabbath for us . . . that is, for our rest, our restoration, our worship, our well-being, and our joy.

For faithful practitioners of the sabbath, the fact that it is a gift from God is plain to see. They unwrapped it long ago, after all. But for many of us who are not as familiar with observing regular times of rest, the sabbath doesn’t reveal its benefits so clearly. Rather, we need to unwrap God’s gift of rest by looking closely at what Scripture says about sabbath. We need to ask the questions that rise up in our hearts, questions like, “If God made the sabbath for us, what is God’s purpose? Why does God want us to set aside times for rest? What’s the point of this gift? What does it mean for us to receive and practice it?”

As we begin this Life for Leaders series I’m calling “Unwrapping the Gift of Sabbath,” I’d encourage you to think about your own understandings and practices related to sabbath. Moreover, I’d urge you to reflect on what it means that God made the sabbath “for humankind.” To be more specific, what does it mean to you that God made the sabbath for you?


What are your views on the sabbath and sabbath practice?

What experiences do you have of the sabbath?

Do you regularly set aside times for rest? If so, how is that going for you?

If you struggle to rest, why?


As we go through this series on “Unwrapping the Gift of Sabbath,” you might find it helpful to jot down your thoughts and experiences in a journal of some sort.


Gracious God, thank you for all of your good gifts, especially the gift of sabbath.

Help me, Lord, to unwrap this gift, to see it, understand it, delight in it, and practice it. As I do, may I experience your grace in new ways. Amen.

Banner image by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-3:6).

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Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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