And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
~ Mark 2:27
First off, a quick clarification. The “Sabbath” is, technically, a Jewish holy day that begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. Because of Christ's emphasis on the spirit of the law, Christians may set aside any reasonable 24-hour period and observe the Sabbath commandment at that time; most choose Sunday, to honor the resurrection. To us, Sunday is the Sabbath.
Jesus not only freed us from literal compliance with the Jewish Sabbath laws; but also, He made it clear that we do it for our benefit. Of course, all of His teachings were for our benefit, but the Sabbath is for our immediate benefit as well as the longer term. We need a day of rest each week. It is not supposed to be a restrictive day of self-denial, but a setting down of our burdens.
If the Puritans got anything really really wrong, it was their observance of the Sabbath. They would sit on hard wooden benches for many hours, listening to dire sermons, and then do anything as long as they didn't have fun. A famous anecdote from the 1700s concerns a man in Connecticut, who was fined because somebody heard him whistling on Sunday.
It is a holy day and should be treated as such. We should make special remembrance of Our Lord on Sunday. But we must also rest; and not only that, we must not suffer other people to work, if it can be avoided. “On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
God says: Even a dog shouldn't have to work on Sunday!
Modern secular society has declared that Sunday is just another day. Every store and restaurant is open, with people hard at work selling, stocking goods, cooking food, massaging necks, etc. But here is an idea for you to consider: Christians should not patronize them. Do your yardwork on Saturday, sure; but do your shopping on Saturday, as well, not only for your own sake, but also for the sake of the people that the heartless mercantile world calls into work. Do you think it makes God happy that we don't work on Sunday, if that means we just make someone else do the work?
The world is going to disregard Christian values, often and widely, but that doesn't mean we have to participate
Lord, lead me to show my love for you by how I spend my Sundays, and to do what I can to make it a day of rest. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer