Have a Nice Weekend!
ALMOST everyone looks forward to it, and when it arrives, it is often the highlight of the week. Some people travel on it, some play on it, some worship on it, and others stay at home and sleep on it.
We are talking about that period of time between the end of one workweek (or school week) and the start of the next—the weekend! In the Western world, the weekend begins sometime on Friday and stretches through Sunday. But where did the idea of the weekend originate? And if you live where the five-day workweek is common, what are some productive ways you might use the weekend?
From Day of Rest to Weekend
Sabbath laws given to the nation of Israel some 3,500 years ago stipulated: “Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest. It is something holy to Jehovah. Anyone doing work on the sabbath day will positively be put to death.” (Exodus 31:15) The Sabbath was also an opportunity for Israelite parents to attend to the spiritual needs of their families.
The Jewish Sabbath went from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. However, according to The World Book Encyclopedia, professed Christians “made Sunday a day for special worship, because they believed that the resurrection of Jesus occurred on that day. By the A.D. 300’s, both the church and the state officially recognized it as a day of rest in Europe.”
Interestingly, stretching the rest period beyond just one day is a rather recent development. Starting in Britain in the 1870’s, the workweek drew to a close at lunchtime on Saturday. The afternoon half-day holiday combined with Sunday to make up the weekend. Saturday afternoon began with a family meal, which, according to Atlantic Monthly magazine, “was often followed by a weekly bath in the neighborhood bathhouse.”
In the United States, the weekend was stretched even more, into a two-day holiday. According to one source, the first five-day workweek was adopted by a factory in New England in 1908. The arrangement was acceptable to both Jewish and “Christian” workers, since each group had its own rest day—Saturday for Jews and Sunday for “Christians.” The five-day workweek caught on quickly. Automobile producer Henry Ford promoted it, since he astutely concluded that weekend family outings would push up the demand for cars.
Something Planned for the Weekend?
Today the two-day weekend has become a fixture of the Western life-style. If you live in that part of the world, toward the end of any workweek, you are likely to be asked by workmates, “What have you got planned for the weekend?” That question raises some exciting possibilities.
Having had your time controlled by an employer for a whole week, the weekend may be your chance to regain a feeling of control over your life. It may allow you to enjoy a break in your weekly routine. It may be a chance for you to get some needed rest or to spend some time with loved ones. Or it may simply be a chance to engage in one of the most popular weekend pastimes—recreational shopping. “Going round the shops is great fun,” remarks Brigitte, who lives in Germany.
Surveys reveal that many people prefer to spend their leisure time simply relaxing. For staunch stay-at-home weekenders, there are many possible diversions: gardening indoors or out, collecting stamps, playing or listening to music, watching videos, cooking, writing letters, reading, sewing, knitting, engaging in sports, and painting, to mention just a few. Some prefer activities that allow them to interact with their children and marriage mate, such as jigsaw puzzles or board games.*
Does the Bible condemn such seemingly frivolous uses of one’s time? Not necessarily. Solomon wrote: “Better is a handful of rest than a double handful of hard work and striving after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6) In moderation, play, rest, and relaxation definitely have their place in the life of a Christian.
Going to Extremes
On the other hand, too much of even a good thing can be counterproductive and damaging. For example, physical training has its benefits. (1 Timothy 4:8) But some weekend athletes pursue sports with almost religious fervor. Determined to win by developing the right technique, some spend excessive amounts of time and money on coaching lessons and elaborate sports equipment.
There are also health risks in pushing untrained bodies beyond their capacity. One newsmagazine reported on middle-aged “weekend warriors of sport” who, determined to regain their youth, end up with strains, sprains, cuts, and bruises. Others risk life and limb in so-called thrill or extreme sports.* The Bible’s counsel to be “moderate” is thus quite appropriate. (Titus 2:2) Exercise should refresh, not exhaust or endanger.
Some thus prefer to enjoy less extreme physical pursuits. For example, walking and hiking are immensely popular in Germany. In fact, one pastime that has a wide following in Europe is called challenge walking. Doing it, you race, not against others, but against the clock. The idea is to cover a set route through a rural area within a certain designated time. What a pleasant way to exercise and at the same time enjoy beautiful scenery! And it is something the entire family can enjoy.
Sometimes people pack so many activities into a weekend that they end up enjoying few or none of them. When the new week starts, they feel, not refreshed, but very tired. The German magazine Focus reported on a study in which 27 percent of those questioned found that their leisure activities tended to be too hectic and stressful.
“Rest is the guardian of efficiency,” wrote Time magazine. Jesus Christ likewise understood the need we have for rest and relaxation. Mark 6:31 reports that Jesus told his disciples: “‘Come, you yourselves, privately into a lonely place and rest up a bit.’ For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure time even to eat a meal.” So while exercise, shopping, and the like have their place, scheduling some time for leisurely reading, resting, or sleeping can do much to refresh you. However, there is something else that can add to the enjoyment of any weekend.
Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) One of the purposes of the original Sabbath rest day was to allow the people to attend to their spiritual needs. Can weekends be used to serve a similar purpose today? Consider Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most of their congregations hold their main Christian meetings on either Saturday or Sunday. Weekends are also used for larger gatherings, such as assemblies and conventions. Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses often spend time on weekends going from door to door discussing the Bible with their neighbors.
Of course, like everyone else, Jehovah’s Witnesses have jobs, homes, and families to care for. So when possible, they also plan leisure activities for themselves and their families. But they give priority to spiritual matters. Does doing so inflict a hardship on them? Consider the experiences of the following individuals.
Before becoming Witnesses, a German couple named Jürgen and Doris spent their weekends working out at a sports club. Melle and Helena spent their time visiting art galleries. For a man named Helmut, weekends were the time to be outdoors enjoying nature. And a woman named Silvia spent her weekends at the disco. Since becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses, though, their leisure habits have changed dramatically.
Jürgen and Doris explain: “Our leisure activities used to wipe out boredom, but you could not say that they enriched our lives. Nowadays, helping other people to understand the Bible adds meaning and purpose not only to their lives but also to ours.” What about Melle and Helena? “The Bible offers guidelines for the very best way of life, and talking to other people about it brings much joy.” Why does Helmut get much more out of life now? “I know that what I am doing in the public ministry is important to Jehovah,” he says. And Silvia comments: “Preaching means contact with people and interesting conversations, and I enjoy both.”
Why not speak with Jehovah’s Witnesses the next time they visit? A brief discussion with one of them might be a first step in finding more purpose in life, not just on the weekend but every day of the week!
Whatever your taste in leisure pursuits, make your weekend upbuilding and enjoyable. If you live in the German-speaking world, we wish you “schönes Wochenende.” If Spanish is your tongue, then, “¡Buen fin de semana!” If you are Ukrainian, we could say, “Бажаю вам приємно провести вихідні.” Wherever you live and whatever you do, have a nice weekend!
For information on the possible dangers of certain electronic games, see the article “Young People Ask . . . Should I Play Computer or Video Games?” in the August 22, 1996, issue of Awake! and the series “Electronic Games—Is There a Dark Side?” in the December 22, 2002, issue.
See the articles “Young People Ask . . . Thrill Sports—Should I Take a Chance?” in the July 8, 1994, issue, and “Thrill Seekers—Why the Fatal Attraction?” in the October 8, 2002, issue.
[Blurb on page 13]
An enjoyable weekend is a healthy mixture of rest, recreation, and spiritual activity