The Sabbath; December 28, 2021


Jeremiah 17:21 This is what the Lord says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem.

We have gotten so far away from the concept of a Sabbath that this seems like much to do about nothing. Of course, the technological revolution has greatly changed the concept of labor, so we need to dig down to the root principles here. Actually, it seems very illogical to modern people that the command to keep the Sabbath would be one of the 10 Commandments. Whereas even in Jesus’ day legalism had totally distorted the concept of the Sabbath, causing Him to have to declare, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sab­bath,” (Mark 2:27) that hardly means it was a meaningless commandment. The Sabbath was commanded, I think, for two reasons. The first is that, as a number of modern studies have shown, people need a regular cycle of rest to maintain health and efficiency. Getting obsessive about that is what made Jesus have to correct the Pharisees repeatedly, “breaking the Sabbath” by doing things like healing people. The other purpose of the Sabbath, in my opinion, is as a counter to greed, to remind us that God is our Source, and not just our own labor. It was actually not so long ago that most stores in America were closed on Sunday, whereas today, Chick-fil-A stands out for maintaining that practice. Companies, which is to say the owners, were motivated by greed to stay open and “catch the weekend traffic,” thus denying their employees the right to rest and/or attend worship services. It took COVID to get a number of national chains to close even on Thanksgiving Day! The Bible has a lot to say about the evils of greed, but suffice to say, it never brings true blessing.

I have long had a very complicated relationship with the Sabbath, because as even Jesus pointed out, those in ministry are often at their most busy on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:5) In terms of rest, it is very wise for ministers to take the next day off, Monday in most cases, but that can be a difficult pattern to maintain. For most of my time in Omura I have tried not to have school classes on Mondays, expressing to the schools involved that I needed it as a Sabbath, but that’s not to say that I have genuinely rested every Monday. I do think I have mostly avoided “money grubbing” on Sundays, or really most days. Things get complicated for church members in various occupations, and I must be careful not to be legalistic. We have a member who is a caregiver in a nursing facility, and the clients there do not magically take care of themselves one day a week! For that matter, the burdens of parenting don’t go away on Sunday, either! That said, I need to teach the believers that God gave us the Sabbath as a blessing, so that we may in turn bless others.

Father, thank You for this reminder. It’s not something I think about very often, and that’s not good. Help me go by Your plans on every level, so that nothing will hinder Your purposes being accomplished through me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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