Remember the Sabbath for it is Holy
By Matthew Castro
The music group, Calloway, introduced the song “I Wanna Be Rich” in 1989 to the American public. The song reached number two on the Billboards Hot 100 songs in 1990. While the song is an annoying late 80s pop song, the lyrics speak to the core mission of many Americans, which is wealth and consumption. Anything that prevents Americans of pursuing that mission should be rejected.
The freedom to boost profit has been the main argument against sabbatarian laws in America. In 2019, lawmakers in North Dakota abolished the state’s Sunday trading ban. it was the last sabbatarian law in America to be overturned. The bill’s main GOP sponsorship in the state legislature claimed that a majority “wants to make decisions for the themselves.” The belief by North Dakota lawmakers is ending the ban would boost shopping and, with it, revenues.
The sabbatarian laws were seen as an imposition to most American’s freedom to make more money or spend more money. Today, people are constantly encouraged to pursue action and purpose. Technology is being packaged to connect people more to work, productivity, and shopping. A day of rest from selling and buying seems like an invasion of personal freedom and choice. However, how is constantly working and no rest impacting people’s souls?
When God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning, he rested on the seventh day from his work. Therefore, God established in the beginning the rhythm of life for his creatures. When God declared the law to his newly established people, Israel, the Sabbath was instituted as the center of the nation’s week, “Remember the Sabbath day keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:8-9). From sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, the people were commanded by God the creator and Lord to rest from their work. No other day in the week is blessed and made sacred by God except the Sabbath.
The Sabbath is important. While many view the Sabbath as solely a religious tradition, God roots his command of keeping the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments in the creation story. God blessed the seventh day, and declared it holy. God set the example for his image bearers to work diligently and then to rest. Israel’s weekly observation of the Sabbath was to model for the world the proper balance of work and rest.
When Jesus came to the Jews, he taught often about the Sabbath. The Pharisees had issues with Jesus’ healing miracles on the Sabbath. The Jewish people over the centuries before Christ had added more restrictions to the Sabbath. The Sabbath became soul crushing as it prevented people from caring for others or doing much of anything.
Jesus declared himself the Lord of the Sabbath. He stated that we are permitted to do good for others and save life on the Sabbath. However, Christ does not dispute with the commandment to remember the Sabbath and rest from working. He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. He did not encourage anyone to harvest their crops, fish from their boats, or sell merchandise on the Sabbath.
Paul in Acts 18 went to the synagogue every Sabbath in Corinth, and he rested from his tent-making trade with Aguila and Priscilla on the Sabbath. Jesus, the Son of God and the Apostle Paul remembered the Sabbath, because God the Father created men and women to work and then to rest from that labor as He did in the beginning. The Sabbath is a creational mandate for humanities’ well-being.
God gave humanity the role of kings and queens over his creation. However, for their own good, they must stop to rest, reflect on their progress, and praise God for his creation and his grace. Then, return to their rule. This was meant to be a weekly routine.
Modern life is all about conquering space. People desire to prosper and grow economically. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in a Wall Street Journal article entitled “What We’ve Lost in Rejecting the Sabbath,” was quoted by Sohrab Ahmari, “The danger begins when in gaining power in the realm of space we forfeit all aspirations in the realm of time. The goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord.” Sabbath gives us freedom to abandon work, disconnect from our work-based identity, and be at peace in the day that is holy.
Heschel wrote, “He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil.” Pastors today constantly think and plan on ways to conquer space by growing their attendance. However, many fail to be in rest weekly. They abandon the Sabbath rest given by God in the beginning to conquer the realm of space. They refuse to lay down the profanity of clattering growth to enter his holy rest.
We should not be too surprised of the non-stop soul crushing toil that defines most people’s lives. While the Sabbath today is seen as an impediment to freedom: the freedom to shop and work as much as they want, this freedom has resulted in anxiety and depression for many. A Sabbath-less existent leaves no time for enjoying what is important.
Do we want to live our lives pursuing more money at the expense of delighting in the beauty of life? Do we not want more playground visits with our kids? Do we not want to cherish moments with our family and friends over tasteful foods and joyful games? The Sabbath allows us to be present and capture these moments as we cease from toil. The world without the Sabbath is a world without soul.
I finish this article recognizing my own need for a weekly Sabbath. Since I work on Sundays, my Sabbath is Saturday. I want to encourage you to trust God, and rest for an entire day once a week. Use the day to pray, read, write, sleep, play, fellowship, and be at peace. Remember the Sabbath for it is holy.