Keep the Sabbath: Commandment 4
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
The commandment to keep the Sabbath is given to God’s people as an act of grace. He does not want his people to spend their entire lives working and toiling, wearing themselves out day after day without break. Can you imagine life without a weekend? It would be just one endless march of school and work. That sounds maddening. But that is not what God wants for us. He cares about our mental and physical health, and he knows that the arrangement of our time is vital to both.
Our time is meant to be structured in such a way that it mirrors the work of God in creation. Put another way, God has revealed his creative work to us so as to give us a pattern by which we should structure our lives: work six days, rest one day. This day of rest is essential for our minds and bodies. We need one day every week when we do not do our regular work, so that we can be rejuvenated for the next week’s activities.
The Sabbath is the day when our attention is turned from the secular to the sacred.
But the commandment to keep the Sabbath has reasons that transcend the physical. One day out of seven must be a holy day, that is, it must be set apart from the rest. It is the day when our attention is turned from the secular to the sacred, when we ignore the practicalities of making money and embrace the highly impractical act of worshiping God. It is a day to enjoy the Lord and his many gifts to us, especially in the context of the communities God has given us. It is the day when we lift our eyes from the earth to heaven, the act of contemplating and remembering that we belong to God and not to our work.
Keeping the Sabbath can be a challenge for many of us, much less the task of keeping the Sabbath holy. Many of us have plenty of leisure time where our bodies and minds can rest, but how often do we make that leisure time holy? How much time do we give to God each week? How much of our lives are spent in the sacred? It’s one thing to binge Netflix or practice “self-care,” but it’s something entirely different to be in the presence of God and contemplate his holiness. Yet this is the best, most efficient, way to care for ourselves – to intentionally give ourselves over to God.
There are many things that one can do to keep the Sabbath (and to keep it holy). Most obviously would be to go to church and practice spiritual disciplines like prayer, reading Scripture, or solitude. But you can also keep the Sabbath holy by sharing a meal with friends and family, taking a walk outside, ministering to people in need, or writing letters. You could even take a nap! Keeping the Sabbath doesn’t have to be complicated or strict. Just give yourself to God and set one day apart each week to intentionally practice the sacred.