Working on Sunday is undoubtedly not a sin. It is not prohibited to work on Sundays in the Bible. The belief that Christians do not work on Sunday derives from a misunderstanding of the Old Testament Sabbath-keeping of the Israelites and its relationship to Christians’ Sunday worship. Exodus 20:8–11 says, the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week in which the Israelites were to rest in remembrance that God created the world in six days and only “rested” on the seventh day. “Keeping the Sabbath” was described as not working on the Sabbath.
WHAT IS SABBATH?
A Sabbath is a day of rest. What did it suggest in the original Hebrew?
Sabbath comes from the word Shabbath, which, as mentioned above, means “Day of rest.” Saturday seems to come from this term, which may refer to the Israelites having a Sabbath on Saturdays.
WHY DID GOD GIVE US THE SABBATH?
God appears to have imposed a Sabbath for several reasons:
1. GOD WANTS US TO TRUST HIM.
When the Israelites wandered through the desert before they got to the Promised Land, God would make manna, a kind of bread-like substance that would sustenance them, and quail rain from the sky (Exodus 16).
They will go out every day to collect the rations of that day, and only the rations of that day. Any extra they were trying to collect would end up full of maggots the following morning. But on the sixth day, God instructed them to gather twice as much so that they would not work to get their food on the seventh day.
As recorded in the Old Testament, some of the Israelites failed to obey God’s commandments, as, on the Sabbath, they would go out to gather manna, but they will not find. The Israelites’ story teaches us that God will always provide for us, even if we don’t work on the day of the week called the Sabbath.
2. WE FALL APART IF WE DON’T REST.
There were also practical reasons why God commanded rest on Sabbath. Those who work without a break will encounter “physical exhaustion and breakdown,” according to the American Association of Christian Counselors. We’re not meant to be working nonstop. When we work seven days a week, we exhaust our brains so its creative functions cannot function properly. We become more depressed and wear ourselves out to the point that we become vulnerable to further illnesses.
3. WE AVOID IDOLATRY WHEN WE OBSERVE SABBATH.
If we live and do nothing but work, we risk bringing it before God in terms of importance.
HOW DID THE SABBATH GET SO DIFFICULT BY THE PHARISEES’ TIME?
The Pharisees were so strict about not working on the day of the Lord that they attempted to condemn Jesus for healing someone on the Sabbath (Mark 6:1-3). And when his disciples even plucked the head of the grain (Mark 2:23), the Pharisees said that they were working on the Sabbath.
The Pharisees took the Old Testament’s commandments and made hedges; their interpretations of the commandments were to prevent sinning.
THINK OF IT THIS WAY:
Drunkenness is wrong.
• Anyone with a Pharisaical mind will first suggest that you can’t drink any alcohol (a cover-up against drunkenness).
• They might create another hedge: any food with an alcohol component (soy sauce, for example) should be forbidden. It is a fence around another fence.
• When they see you dip your sushi in soy sauce, they’re going to say you’ve sinned.
They have become so obsessed with the rules; they have lost the point. They converted God’s gift of rest into a burden.
A Sabbath doesn’t mean that you stay away from working only but that you someone in need. After all, Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Sabbath means concentrating time and delivering it to the Lord, recognizing that He will provide for our needs and finances by other means.
There are two problems involved with the myth that working on Sunday is immoral. First, the Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday. The seventh day of the Jewish calendar has traditionally been Saturday. The first day of the week of the Jewish calendar is Sunday.
Sunday’s idea as a day of Sabbath rest is based on the belief that Sunday was a holy day because it was the day of Jesus ‘ resurrection. Roman emperor Constantine declared Sunday as a day of rest in AD 321. Sabbatarianism became popular in the days of the English and Scottish Protestant Reformations, particularly in the teachings of John Knox. The Puritans that came to America popularized the notion, causing many businesses to be closed on Sundays and modern times.
Nevertheless, some religious communities tend to uphold the principle of observing the Sabbath. The most popular example is the Seventh-day Adventists, who regard Saturday as a true Sabbath and rest for all Christians.
The second issue with naming Sunday the Sabbath is that the practice of the Sabbath was part of the Mosaic Law, not the rule of any time and place. Apostle Paul also dealt with this concern among the early Christians, including many Christians who came from the Jewish tradition in which the Sabbath was part of their lives. He wrote in Romans 14:5-6, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth, not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.” But Paul also wrote, “And he that doubteth is damned if he eats, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23).
The Sabbath day was formed so that the Israelites would rest from their labors, only to begin their works after a day’s rest. How, then, do Christians not have to abide by the same law? The key to knowing this is to recognize that the Sabbath’s different elements symbolized the coming of the Messiah, which would fulfill the law by providing a permanent rest instead of a one-day rest for His people. Since the Old Testament Law’s creation, the Jews were actively “working” to make themselves acceptable to God. Their labors included the endeavor to follow all the laws of the ceremonial law, the temple law, and the sacrificial law. Of course, they would not be able to follow all such rules, and that God would make an abundance of sin offerings and sacrifices so that they could come to Him for forgiveness and regain communion with Him, but only briefly.
Just as they started their physical labors after a day of rest, so, too, they had to continue offering sacrifices. Hebrews 10:1 says that “For the Law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. Hebrews 10:12 tells us that “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.” Jesus had rested after He had made the ultimate sacrifice — He had ceased His work of atonement because there wasn’t anything more to be done. Because of what Jesus did, we no longer have to “work” in law-keeping to be justified in heaven’s sight, and this includes the observance of the Sabbath. Jesus has been sent so that we can trust in God and in what He has given us.
Through saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath:” (Mark 2:27), Jesus repeated the principle that the Sabbath rest was created to relieve man of his labors, just as Jesus came to relieve us of our attempts to gain redemption through our works. We don’t rest for only one day, but we never stop working to receive God’s favor. Jesus is our rest from work now, just as He is the gateway to heaven, where we will rest forever in Him. There is no rest other than Christ on the Sabbath. He alone meets the law’s criteria, and He alone makes a sacrifice that atones for sin. He is God’s plan for us to end the labor of our works.
In Colossians 2:16–17, the apostle Paul states, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” We are no longer ordered to cease working on the Sabbath, nor is Sunday now the” Christian Sabbath.” While many Christians choose to leave Sunday and spend at least part of it in corporate worship, working on Sunday is not sin. Most Christians, such as physicians and nurses, have no choice but to operate on Sundays, so we should be very thankful to them. Yet Christians who work on Sunday will do so with the knowledge that worship is not limited to a single day of the week, yet it is a constant part of their lives.
Many Christians work on Sundays because their employer requires them to do so. Think about it. Once Christians get out of the church and go out to a restaurant to eat, they want the restaurants to be open and completely staffed. They understand that all goods and services are needed seven days a week, and this is why some Christians have no choice but to operate on a Sunday or be fired. The last thing Christians should do is judge those who work on Sundays and then go out and expect to receive goods and services on the same day. It would be unfair to advise Christians not to work on Sundays while we receive others’ services on this day.
A few Christians have to work on Sundays, but they attend a Saturday night worship service, or maybe they can only attend a Wednesday night Bible study. They would also have the option of going to Sunday night services. In conditions beyond their control, many Christians and, of course, non-Christians have no choice but to work on Sundays. They need to cater to their families, and they may have minimal job opportunities. Also, pastors have to work every Sunday. Also, in the Old Testament, the priests had to perform their most important tasks on the Sabbath day, and there were even more limitations on holding the Sabbath for the Jews in the Old Covenant.
ESTEEMING ONE DAY OVER ANOTHER
The truth is that there are many Christians who have no choice but to work on Sundays: This includes railway workers, turnpike operators, gas stations, restaurant employees, maintenance crews, emergency services such as EMTs, ambulance drivers, paramedics, and the police. What if they had taken the day off at the other end of the 911 emergency lines? What if the firefighters went off on Sunday and had to let the fires burn out or hope that the residents could escape? What about the Highway Patrol? What if they chose not to work on Sundays? How safe would the roads be?
Paul understood that many Jews still adhered to the Old Covenant laws and judged others who were not observing them. Paul’s reaction is expected to be our reaction. He said in Colossians 2:16 that, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days” Some in the church judged some by what Christ had done on the cross of Calvary. The same idea applies to clean and unclean food as it does to the days we may worship God or the days we have to work. Paul and the writer of the Hebrews said in 1 Timothy 4:3 that, “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” however these were, “only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.” (Hebrews 9:10) These kinds of strange teachings are of no value to us today.
Many of you reading this might have a large family circle and even larger bills to pay, and you do not know if you’re going to pay for it all this month. Many of you may be working round-the-clock jobs that allow you to be unavailable seven days a week. It’s hard to take a whole day off in our society, which expects us to work effectively and efficiently to achieve greatness in life.
To us, the Sabbaths may look a little different. It might only mean not reading emails on weekends to alleviate the extra tension. But for those who work round-the-clock jobs, it might mean scheduling a certain number of hours and dedicating them to rest, even though you cannot allocate 24 hours at once. Designate 24 hours for the entire week, maybe, and stretch it out.
We must devote at least 24 hours a week to ourselves either by spreading it out or not to relax, rejuvenate, and trust God to provide when we are not working.