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Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

Since today is the Sabbath, I thought it would make a good subject for a post.  The fourth commandment, after all, says “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8, King James version).

But what exactly does it mean to keep the sabbath day holy?  Exodus sheds further light on the subject by saying “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all they work, But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD they god: in it thou shalt not do any work…” and it goes on to detail who else shouldn’t work, so you can’t get around the commandment by having your child or servant do work for you (Exodus 2o:9-10).

So you shouldn’t work on Sunday.  Obviously, some things need to stay open, like hospitals and the like, but, in general, you shouldn’t work.  But it also says you shouldn’t make other people work for you.  So, in order to really keep the sabbath day holy, things like going out to eat and going shopping are out, because you are causing other people to work by doing so.

Similarly, it would seem that things like housework and yard work should likewise be done another day.

Is there anything we should be doing on Sunday?  Going to church is fairly obvious.  It’s also a good day to spend studying scriptures, praying, and contemplating the gospel and what we can do to live it better.

There are still gray areas about what constitutes keeping the sabbath day holy.  How about t.v.?  Books?  Music?  I think it’s safe to say that we should stick to media that would be pleasing to God.  If Christ were in the room with you, would you feel comfortable watching that t.v. program?  (Please be so kind as to ignore the absurdity of watching t.v. with Jesus.)

Of course, if you are watching, reading, or listening to something on Sunday that isn’t in line with Christian principles, you probably shouldn’t be watching it any day of the week.

That’s all I have time for now.  Please leave your take in the comments!

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1 Comment

  1. Mikey G says:

    If you want to be technical the Sabbath according to the OT traditions is Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. The Jewish day begins at sunset not dawn and the Sabbath is the last day of the week not the first. The Christian tradition both begins the day in the morning and starts the week with the Sabbath (and I happen to think this is a telling difference in the overall Christian and Jewish interpretations of the universe). I say “if you want to be technical” because if you are looking to be right with God by following the commandments technically you are obligated to follow all of the commandments technically… and according to the commandments the result of failure is death and separation with God.

    Of course Jesus had a lot of friction with the Pharisees concerning what the Sabbath meant. I do not think He had an actual issue whether or not we ought to keep the Sabbath holy but was gravely concerned about what it meant to keep the Sabbath holy. It might even be worth noting that of all of Ten Commandments the commandment of the Sabbath is the only one in which Christians are not explicitly commanded to follow. But that does not mean it is a commandment which, like clean and unclean foods, expired. The most telling insight to the Sabbath comes from Jesus who says “Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man.”

    All of this to say that if we are observing the Sabbath because it is the Sabbath we are still thinking like children. It is not sinful to follow a rule for God only because it is a rule from God (far from it!) but it is not spiritually mature. It is God’s purpose for us to understand His ways, to follow and obey His commandments because we see they are good. We ought to obey for sure but we also ought to understand.

    So why was the Sabbath made for us? Well I can offer some interpretations (also known as educated but non-authorative guesses). First we need to rest. It is a fact that life has a way of not stopping (until it stops of course). We need to sleep every day but we also need to take time off of our longer term tasks. It rests our body and our spirit and gives us perspective. We need to see that the universe and all of the important work will continue without us. We ought to be doing what we are doing the rest of the week but our own actions and accomplishments do not make the universe work.

    Second and perhaps more importantly by stopping our toil for a day we are resisting the ways of the godless world. The world has this system in which we are cogs producing and consuming in ever increasing efficiency. In a lot of ways at looking at humans we are judged according to our ability to produce and consume. Though we might reject this view (I know I do!) but we all feel the pressure. To spend a day doing jack squat we say to the world: you aren’t the boss of me.

    Also less importantly taking a day off requires that we plan ahead and prepare for the future. This forces us to develop wisdom. I haven’t gotten this far in my Sabbath observance in that I really could just spend a whole day not even cooking or cleaning but I managed to structure my life so that there is one day in which I am able to succeed in my goals with one day where I don’t earn money or do homework.

    I think I have said plenty and do not know if it is a dissenting position or not but I think my response is longer than your post so will stop at this point.

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