October 12, 2008

  • Sabbath: Part 3, Work

    “In those days I saw men in Judah treading winepresses on the
    Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together
    with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they
    were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath, Therefore
    I warned them against selling food on that day”—Nehemiah 13:15.

    I’ve been writing about observing the Sabbath, which most Christians celebrate on the first day of the week  (but some still celebrate on the seventh day). I discovered this passage in Nehemiah in college, and realized what a strong statement God made about doing business on His day.

    Nehemiah ordered that the gates to city be closed, and no more business be done on the Sabbath. He did not want God’s people to be in a hurry to make money on a holy day.

    A couple decades ago, friends of mine had a roofing business called SIX DAYS. The idea was that their labor was six days, and that on their Sabbath, they didn’t do roofing. They had the right idea, I think.

    We, as Christians, are spiritual Israel. God wants us to rest. He told Israel:

    “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”—Deuteronomy 5:15.

    Part of our release from spiritual slavery—being slaves to sin—is our celebration in this earthly place of our release. Someday, we will enter our eternal rest in its fullness. For now, we have the opportunity to enjoy a symbolic day of rest once a week—our Sabbath.

    So how does this work out in our family life? We ask ourselves what we, individually and corporately, are called to do in our normal six day labor. Whether it is our career, our daily chores, or our education, that is what we put aside on our Sabbath. Our kids are free to not do homework; D and I are free to not answer work emails or edit an extra paragraph for an article; all of us are free not to do laundry or mowing.

    Every family is going to have different freedoms on the Sabbath. Since our kids were heavily into sports on Monday through Saturday, we chose to rest from it on the Sabbath. This was tough when it came to Little League, but our Jewish league was very sympathetic. Our kids worked hard on their baseball on Monday through Saturday, so on Sunday, we rested. Sometimes that meant giving up the starting pitching position on the team. Sometimes it meant sitting on the bench for the next big game. Sometimes it meant missing a big game.

    The important thing was that our kids didn’t have to perform that day. They didn’t have to clean their rooms or finish their math homework. D and I have felt free to do the same. The day has been about rest, vacation, enjoying each other, going to worship with other believers, and doing acts of mercy. It has always been a day we could feel free to visit someone in the hospital, ride bikes in the park with friends, spend some time as a family, take a nap, invite someone home for dinner, or write a letter. We know that we have the time for these things because God gave us the license to do it. It has not always been easy, but yet it has been very liberating and restful.

    What kind of parameters do you set around your Sabbath? What ways do you guard the day? What ways do you celebrate the day?

    ||||||  lynard

Comments (3)

  • My practices seem to be a lot like yours. And that nap sure was needed today. Quite seriously, it truly is a day of freedom for me.

  • So…..you think its ok we (Christians) celebrate it on a different day than God calls for us to celebrate it?? (Sunday rather than Saturday). The legalistic letter of the law is the letter of the law. Also…..does it mean a Sunday afternoon nap or does it mean no work…should you drive a car, work at a church dinner, lead a meeting…….just asking   :)

  • @onRway3 - 

    Thanks for your considerations. I believe the 10 commandments are foundational, not legalistic. I think they bring blessing and freedom as we pursue them in our state of grace. And yes, like I’ve said before, I’ve known many Christians, including pastors, who celebrated their Sabbath on other days. The early church seems to overwhelmingly move the Sabbath to the resurrection day, so I like celebrating that day. There is a lot of good exposition on celebrating the first day of the week rather than the seventh under the new covenant, but you can read those on your own.

    What you do with your Sabbath depends on what you do with your other six days. It won’t be the same for every household. The important thing is to celebrate one day out of seven, rest from normal craziness and striving, and focus on spiritual pursuits. I have had Jewish friends who wouldn’t drive a car or turn on lights, but, for us, that is not work or part of our worldly pursuits. Some of my friends fast from TV or the internet; some like to go hiking. I am personally am not thrilled about meetings on my Sabbath, including church business, but I don’t mind washing dinners at a church dinner because it usually means exceptional fellowship and being a blessing and provision of rest to others.

    What do you think?

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