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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.”

4 comments to Sabbath

  • Michael Redmond

    The subject of Sabbath is interesting for college student like myself. We are often told to make sure we are taking a day of rest, but then we are also given homework to do on the weekends. With all the demands of school, ministry, and trying to pay for school, I often do not get a day to stop and rest. Over the 2 years I have been here at Cedarville, I find that I almost must force myself to give up homework time so that I can rest. Sometimes this results in me becoming more stressed, but it is often a needed reprieve from the constant grind of school. I think it will be interesting after graduation to move into a job where I can have a day off to use as my Sabbath. It will be an adjustment for sure but I am definitely looking forward to it.

  • Macy McClain

    For me, it’s easy to get so caught up in ministry-related responsibilities that I overlook the Sabbath and its significance. As michael said in his comment, we are inundated with homework, church responsibilities, family pressures, and other things. This is in no way trying to used those things as an excuse not to celebrate the Sabbath. I am looking forward to the day when my full-time job will allow me to celebrate the Sabbath, resting as God did. This was a great reminder for us all!

  • Mary Williams

    I agree with Micheal and Macy– being told to take a sabbath day as a student can feel like paradoxical joke. Deep down, we KNOW its a Biblical command, we KNOW its good for our bodies and minds. . . yet its so hard to take a Sabbath.

    Personally, I was recently introduced to the concept of “Sabbath moments.” A whole day of rest can feel like a trapped time commitment, which honestly stresses me out and defeats the purpose. Instead, I try to deliberate make a “Sabbath moment” each day that refreshes and renews me to go into the next day. Even if I get an hour of time to refresh, I feel more energized, focused, and inspired to continue work on that huge project.

    Mind you, my Sabbath moments aren’t just naps. Sometimes they can be, but often I read the Bible, pray, journal, go for a walk in the woods, sit and watch the sunset, hit an early bedtime, etc. Whatever that day demands, I make time to worship through good stewardship of my body and mind. My soul is also refreshed through these Sabbath moments, making it possible to continue living this crazy thing called life.

    I don’t know if that’s a Biblical approach to the Sabbath, but I’ve found that its an effective way to implement the concept of Sabbath in my life. Thoughts about this?

  • Blake Cruise

    This topic was my favorite that was discussed in the Theology of Worship class. Prioritizing rest isn’t simply to have energy and feel good but to have that energy to glorify God with the energy that He provides through rest. It is also following His example as we should in all things. Finding time to rest is difficult no matter what part of life you are in. Just because we are in college doesn’t mean that we don’t have time to rest. No matter where you are in life, there will be other things pulling at you and trying to hold your attention. Having the discipline to set apart time to rest and relax is vital to health and worship. As someone above said, rest isn’t simply naps, but a time to refocus and recenter life on the Lord. Ultimately, we live to honor and glorify the Lord and rest is a major part of our worship that is directed toward and glorifies the Lord.