by Sean Lim
26 October 2008
Sleep is an integral part of our lives. We need sleep. Sleep is necessary. It is a way of resting our bodies after a long day’s work. Different people require different amount of sleep. Babies usually sleep longer, while older people require less sleep.
The Bible also talks about sleep. In Matthew 26, we find that Jesus told Peter to keep watch, but he fell asleep. Certain passages use the word “sleep” as being dead. This can be found in Acts 7:60, 1 Cor 15:6, etc. The “sleep” we will be discussing about will refer to the act of resting, and not the latter.
As important as sleep is, today we find people choosing not to sleep. Not that they can’t sleep, but rather, they prefer to stay awake than to enjoy the rest that God has provided. We find people working all the way till the wee hours of the morning. By “wee hours”, I don’t mean 2 or 3
am, in which case it is bad enough, but I’m referring more to those who stay up just to get things done up until 4-5am!! Yes, surprised as you may be, it is true, and such is the growing trend today, catalyzed by the fast-paced world and the growing demands to race to the top and make every effort you can to stay there! I’m not saying we ought to abandon our responsibilities, but rather, we should plan our schedule well. Yes, there will be days in which we are forced to stay up, but in most cases, proper planning and time management will put such a phenomenon to rest.
The Psalmist in Ps 127:1-2 writes “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.”
The Bible teaches us that to abandon sleep just to do such things is vain, and the reasons are given within the context – in verse 1, where it says, unless God is with us, whatever we do is in vain, and in the second, is that because God gives us, His beloved, sleep. Therefore, we ought to be thankful for such a wonderful gift God gives to us, that as much as God rested on the seventh day after the creation of the world, we too can rest at the end of a hard day’s work.
Lack of sleep brings unfruitfulness – when we are tired and sleepy, it renders us unproductive. We are not in the right mind to do things. It causes us to be less sober, as we can see that people who lack sleep are often very grumpy and easily agitated. As a result, they get angry easily and say things to hurt people – things that they wouldn’t have otherwise said if they were alert and of sound mind. But we all know that the Bible teaches us to put away anger. Gal 5:20 classifies “outbursts of wrath” as a work of the flesh. Col 3:8 tells us also to put away these things. It says, “But now you must also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.”
Notice how “anger” and “wrath” are mentioned separately. This tells us that Paul, the writer of Colossians, makes a distinction between the two and tells us specifically that both should not even be in our lives.
Note also that Col 4:6 says that our speech should be “with grace, seasoned with salt”. When we lack sleep, we are not in a right state of mind to think, what more say the right things?
Inasmuch as God gives us the gift of sleep, we also ought not to abuse it. We make mention of this because, there are many who love sleep. However, we need to be careful, for the Bible teaches us in Prov 20:13, “Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.” Solomon, the wisest man ever to walk this Earth, warned us against loving sleep. He tells us that if we sleep too much, we will come to poverty, and why is that? This is because, while we slumber, we are actually taking our precious time away from actually working to earn our living! Remember that we have been cursed from the day Adam sinned and took of the fruit to eat our bread in sweat (Gen 3:17-19). Then, Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote in 1 Tim 5:8, saying, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is wore than an unbeliever”, and again in 2 Thes 3:10, where it says, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”
So we note that God, through His Word, has told us that He has given us the avenue of sleep as a means of recharging ourselves and regaining strength. Nevertheless, He also warns us of turning this blessing into a curse, which is always possible, in this context, if we start to become lazy and sluggish.
The Bible gives us a suggestion of a solution to some of us who feel we have become sluggish. In the book of Hebrews, the Hebrew writer wrote in Heb 6:10-12, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
We are told to look toward our full assurance of hope, the hope of heaven when life on Earth is over, and looking toward this, we continue to work for God, which thus prevents us from being sluggish and lazy. Remember also that God remembers our work and labor of love.
May we glorify God by the way we sleep!