How Do You Honor the Sabbath When You Work for a Church?

The fourth commandment in the 10 commandments is to honor the Sabbath. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God, and the remaining six commands deal with our relationships to others. The commandments that precede it talk about God himself:

-Having no gods before me
-Having no graven images
-Not taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain

As the final commandment of the first division, it transitions away from God himself to honoring the Sabbath to keep it holy. Sabbath itself means “rest”.

The Jewish Sabbath was to be the last day of the week, which was Saturday, and because the Jewish “day” began with the evening, it is observed from Friday evening to Saturday evening. However, most Christian observe Sabbath on Sundays.

However, for those of us in the ministry (and many of our volunteers) Sunday is anything but Sabbath. Days begin very early with scurrying around to get ready for church, then hurrying off to church to power on all of our technology to make our services possible, to rehearsals, sound checks, and often multiple services. Committee meetings often fill up the afternoon, and then Sunday night services, AWANA, Bible studies, or any number of good things fill up our evenings.

So, how do we find Sabbath on a day that is not restful? I believe that the important thing to remember is that while Sabbath is a “day”, it is also a principle—the principle of rest. When God created the world, he rested on the 7th day. Since God is all-powerful, it wasn’t because he was fatigued. It was to model rest for us. God built in daily rhythm of the day (light) and night (dark) so that we would have rest, and he built a weekly rhythm that was also to include rest on the Sabbath.

The Jewish people have an elaborate series of laws breaking down 39 categories of “work” that is prohibited on the Sabbath or “Shabbat”. I can remember being in Israel on the Sabbath and being on an elevator. The elevator would stop on every floor as pushing the elevator door button constituted work, and thus was prohibited the Sabbath.

Jesus demonstrates that the Sabbath principle is more than trying to promote a legalistic adherence to the Jewish laws. The three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) all record the story of when Jesus and his disciples were picking some grain on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were there, and accused them of breaking the Sabbath law. Jesus reminds them of when David went into the house of God and ate bread that only the priests were supposed to eat. Mark 2:27-28 records “Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.'”

So, the Sabbath principle for us is one of rest. If we can’t rest on the Sabbath, we need to take rest at other times. For me, I try to be done with work by Saturday at noon, and spend Sunday afternoon resting. This is just my way of observing Sabbath, until one day we will all enter into the Sabbath rest discussed in Heb. 4:9-10: “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”

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