Dedicating Time to God

A discussion of the Sabbath.

Introduction

I remember once having a conversation about church being too long. We were talking about Baptist churches specifically. A comparison was made concerning the predominately white church up the road and our predominately black church across the street. On average, our church services ended around 2 or 3 pm, while the other church ended service around 12 pm. I would later learn that in the time my home church spent on one service, many mega churches may finish 2 or 3 services.

Looking back, this may be the most pitifully sad conversation I've had the misfortune of taking part in. When you consider our church only had church services on 1st and 3rd Sundays (Sunday school happened every Sunday though), it seems a little selfish that anyone would complain about the amount of time spent on those 2 days. Zooming out further, there are 168 hours per week; only 24 of those hours belong to the Sabbath (which is actually from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday per the Biblical description). At the time whomever I was speaking with and I were erroneously observing the Sabbath on Sunday, but regardless, we were in church from about 10 am to 3 pm. That's 5 hours which is only 3% of the week. God told us to keep the entire Sabbath holy, not to take a small portion of the Sabbath to remember Him. He created us, sent His Son to die for us, looks out for us, restores our health, answers our prayers, etc. We want God to hear our prayers and fix our problems—all of which we bring on ourselves, but we don't want to give Him 24 hours. Why is this?
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God's Sabbath

While Jesus makes it clear that emergencies (i.e. putting out a fire) or things that are for the greater good of God's glory (i.e. serving food to the homeless or preaching God's Word) may require us to work during the Sabbath, that doesn't mean we have free range to do whatever we want. I spent a very long period of time (years actually) thinking about what is or isn't appropriate for the Sabbath and why. I'm not claiming the stances on the topics below are the absolute truth, but I'm sharing the conclusions I've come to and why for those who are curious.
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Work

Obviously we are told not to do "work" on the Sabbath, but defining "work" is difficult. In this section when I say work, I mean the job that pays your bills. Some people have jobs that respond to emergencies (police, doctors, firefighters, nurses, caretakers, etc.) I don't think Jesus would say that these people should not do their job on the Sabbath. However, most of us have jobs in which there is no threat to life if we fail to show up on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is your break from work; the one day you don't have to stress yourself out about deadlines, paperwork, pain-in-the-butt-customers, and the like. You best believe I'm going to take that opportunity!

For those who's first response is "but I have to work to survive," remember your faith. If you are keeping God's commandments, surely He's not going to leave you high and dry.
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Homework

School didn't exist in Jesus' day, so there are no verses to classify school work in God's eyesight. Sometimes, school work is actually about God, such as when we studied the reformation of the church. Other times, school work is the opposite of what God wants us to focus on, such as when we study pagan gods and mythology. Then there are times when school work is in opposition to God, such as a science report that denies the existence of God (can you imagine God's reaction to us writing a report supporting evolution on His Sabbath!?). Many times the work is neutral, like Algebra.

Once I began graduate school, separating my school work based on topic became a non-issue because it's all on Computer Science which is neither for or against God (unless of course you start doing some sci-fi artificial intelligence type stuff). Since this was also the time I really began questioning how we were to keep the Sabbath holy, I started to realize if it doesn't pertain to God, it doesn't matter if it's neutral or in opposition to God. It's my responsibility to get the work done before the Sabbath begins. I know that the Sabbath is coming, so instead of playing video games for 3 hours during the week, I should work to finish or make greater progress on my assignments. Unless I have been ill and thus prevented from doing my homework before the Sabbath, I refrain from school work on that day. (Luckily if you are honoring the Sabbath on the actual Sabbath, you still have about 36 hours after the Sabbath to get any assignment for Monday completed.

As mentioned in the first paragraph of this section, schoolwork rarely has anything to do with God. Also, schoolwork is like the work of the previous section; it's required for your monetary livelihood, which is what type of work God forbade. I don't think He really cares about binary trees or considers a diploma vital to my survival. Since implementing this mindset, not only have I not been late on an assignment, I haven't felt stressed or rushed to complete an assignment either. By acknowledging the Sabbath I am forced to plan my studies around those hours and combat my natural inclination to procrastinate.
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Music & Television

I have a post on the issues we as Christians should think about when selecting what music we listen to, but even after narrowing down our music library, we have to determine what is and is not appropriate for us to listen to on the Sabbath. Most of the "Black" radio stations at home play gospel Sunday morning, but switch back to secular music after noon. If you've ever been in the car during this time period, you know that jumping from "How Great Thou Art" to Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" is quite jarring.

I have all week to listen to the secular songs I keep in my iTunes library, so why can't the Sabbath be just for God's praise? I created a Praise & Worship playlist which contains my favorite gospel songs and those are the only songs I listen to during the Sabbath. It doesn't matter to me that secular song x doesn't have any curse words or vulgar expressions in it, the fact that it isn't God-focused makes it inappropriate for the Sabbath. Listening to music is definitely not an emergency, so I don't see any valid argument as to why I need to listen to a particular album on the Sabbath. If I desire to hear a song, it's precisely that a desire not a need. The same concept applies to television
13If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: 14Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.Isaiah 58:13-14 KJV

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Family & Friends

During Jesus' era, there were no labor laws and people worked insane hours during the week. While we don't necessarily keep the same hours today, it is easy to get bogged into work to the point you don't have time to spend with your family or friends. I think this is part of why God created the Sabbath. Just as it gives us a chance to commune with God, it gives a day to spend quality time with our friends or family. Note I don't think gossiping or negative comments about people should be inserted to the conversations that accompany these interactions. Perhaps a picnic outside (something that takes little preparation, not a fancy feast mind you) or a hike through the woods. A trip to the park with the family pet? Remember, on the Sabbath we should be honoring Him (as mentioned in Isaiah 58 above), which may eliminate some activities. I don't think going to an amusement park particularly honors God. Contrastingly when you are out in nature you are enjoying that which He created. Again, going to a club to drink alcohol and dance to vulgar music with your friends would probably be considered "finding thine own pleasure."

Weddings and Funerals

I have seen some who do not partake in weddings or funerals if they occur on the Sabbath. The rationale being that they represent someone seeking their own pleasure as opposed to focusing on God. I'm not sure that I agree, however. A wedding represents the only other tradition God initiated in the Garden of Eden. How is witnessing two people repeat this tradition before God not giving honor to God? Jews consider it forbidden to hold a wedding on the Sabbath,[2] however I haven't been able to substantiate why in scripture. Ceremonies used to be held on Friday with the reception occurring Friday night (the beginning of the Sabbath). The only issue I can see for a Sabbath day wedding is the preparation (setting out chairs, preparing the food, etc.) Depending on the venue, however, all of these things can be accomplished the day before. Funerals are much simpler; the Bible gives us a clear answer. Dead bodies were considered unclean (interesting that we bring them in the church when it was forbidden to even go to the temple if you'd touched a dead body). Also funerals are more of an honor to the person who has died. Remember, they had to get Jesus' body off the cross and in the tomb before the Sabbath. In Jewish culture it is forbidden to hold a funeral on the Sabbath.[1] Top

Cooking

During Jesus' era, you had to build a fire to cook and building a fire is expressly forbidden on the Sabbath in Exodus 35:3. However, today we have microwaves and electric stoves. Preparing a meal is much easier than it was in Jesus or Moses' day, which begs the question of what is appropriate. I usually cook enough early Friday afternoon to generate leftovers for Saturday's breakfast and lunch. Though, I often get hungry anyway. Sometimes, I have frozen dinners which I can easily throw in the microwave and eat. If I don't have a frozen dinner, I stick with things that take minimal preparation: a can of soup, a bowl of fruit, PB&J, boiled egg, etc. Essentially, if I need to chop, dice, marinate, mix, or bake something I leave it for the rest of the week. Not only does this help cut down my grocery bill, now that I stopped buying cookies and potato chips, it keeps me from boredom snacking as well.
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Internet/Reading

It would be easy to spend the Sabbath reading useless garbage on the internet, but somehow I don't think that was God's intent either. I use the Sabbath to get in all the Bible Study time I don't have during the week. I research topics and questions I have pertaining to God's Word (I also update this blog, as you can tell by some of the timestamps). The Sabbath is our day to talk to God, so it makes sense that we would do just that. If I can spend countless hours reading Buzzfeed, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, I can definitely spend the Sabbath reading and understanding God's word.
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Money

The Old Testament confirms that we aren't supposed to buy or sell on the Sabbath. Based on Jesus' testimony in the New Testament, I would assume if it is an emergency you would be permitted to buy and sell (for instance, you are sick and require medicine). As such I don't go shopping on the Sabbath. This means that for 24 hours, no money leaves my bank account (that's a blessing!). It also means that I'm guaranteed 24 hours where I'm not in danger of coveting or being greedy.
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Why Bother?

The Sabbath is not only meant to honor and worship God, put to be a day of relaxation. This is the day you get to forget about the dishes in the sink, the prep work for that big meal, the paper that's due on Monday, the drama happening at school or in the office, the rising prices of everything... It's refreshing to focus an entire 24 hour period on God, positivity, and relaxation. As I said in the beginning, how can we expect God to listen and answer our prayers, when we're unwilling to devote our time to Him?
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References

  1. Lamm, Maurice. "Timing the Funeral Service". Chabad.org. 2016
  2. "Approved Dates for a Wedding". Chabad.org. 2016

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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