Last week I opened an entire case of worm cans. (If you missed it, you can read it here.) How Christians are to keep the Sabbath has been a point of contention since the church began. We’re not going to solve it here, yet it’s worth thinking about. God seems to think it’s pretty important!
We already know that God doesn’t like empty ritual. Just following a list of do’s and don’t’s won’t make Him happy. Consider Isaiah 1:13-14—
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
Besides, God told the priests to work in the temple, sacrificing animals, on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:5), so it can’t just be about not working. What is God’s real purpose?
Having dispensed with the rules, what are we to do on this day? I tried to think of other areas where God has a strong opinion, but doesn’t really provide guidelines. The first thing that came to mind is money. The Old Testament has numerous references to the law of tithing. They were to bring a tenth of all their increase to the temple as an offering, and not any tenth—it was to be the first and the best. (There were other tithes as well, which I won’t go into here.)
Under the New Covenant, we’re to consider all our money as God’s. Some of us tithe, some of us don’t, but the point is that giving God a tenth is just the beginning. We’re to pray and ask Him how to spend every last cent.
So how does that apply to keeping the Sabbath? Let me digress for a moment.
Pete and I have been married for almost 36 years now. We pledged our lives to one another, and we submit to one another in how we spend our time (Ephesians 5:20). However, even though I’d like to be with Pete all the time (or at least most of the time!), on an average week day he leaves early for the gym, then goes off to his office, while I either take photos or work from home. Some evenings I have volunteer meetings, and we don’t see one another all day.
One day a week, however, we’ve allotted time to start the day together. We sit and chat while we’re both at our best; we’re “morning people,” so 6 a.m. breakfast is perfect for us. And one day a month, we schedule an entire day to spend together, doing something we both enjoy. We set aside other commitments and delight in one another’s company. It’s our quality time.
I’ve pledged my life to God, and I intend to submit to Him in ways (I admit that area needs some work still). It’s true that He is with me always, and, just as all my money is really His money, all my time is really His time. But when I’m focused on work, or even having fun, I can’t give God my full attention. I’m learning to think of the Sabbath as scheduling an entire day to spend with God, doing something we both enjoy, setting aside other commitments and delighting in one another’s company. It’s God’s quality time.
Sometimes that involves sacrifice. I want to go birding, but God would rather we visit friends. I may want to finish a book, but God thinks I need a nap—or vise versa. But for the most part, it isn’t so much what we do, as the fact that we intentionally do it together. I wake up and tell God, “This is your day. What should we do with it?” And I find that when I make time for God, He always makes time for me!
How do you keep the Sabbath?