Devotional Thoughts: The Sabbath in the 21st Century

One measure of "religiousity" is the classic poll question: Do you believe in God?

In the USA, around 90% + do. That number is much lower in Europe. I've never seen stats on other continents.

But of course, we all know, it is one thing to SAY one believes in God and another thing to have that actually change the way we live.

I pray most every day. Sometimes it feels rote but other times, I do sense I'm in communion with God. It isn't something I could "scientifically" prove and skeptics will always say that and say that it is some psychological/emotional phenomena that can be attained by non-religious means.

I also try to read the Bible - Hebrew (Old Testament) and Christian (New Testament) Scriptures - on a daily basis. I confess I don't always read every day but I try.

Was recently meditating on Matthew 12:1-14.

Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees for "breaking the Sabbath."

We usually think of the Sabbath as taking a break from work.

In the agrarian days of the Scriptures, keeping the Sabbath at least entailed resting from the daily labor of working on the farm. But how does that apply today in the 21st Century?

Hmmm ... if one works in health care or law enforcement and some other professions, I'm sure you occasionally have to work on the Saturday (if you are Jewish) or Sunday (if you are Christian). I think that would be fine as Jesus cited the example of priests on duty in the Temple and of rescuing the sheep that was injured and doing work to get food when you are hungry.

So how many 21st Century professions fall into this category where it would be okay to work on the Sabbath occasionally?

But for the vast rest of us, how do we practice Sabbath keeping?

As I see it, work life should: (1) glorify God - our lives should bring glory to God and work is part of our life (2) help provide for our material needs and the needs of others and (3) in some cases provide personal satisfaction.

I realize item #3 is really unique to modern Western culture. After all, a century ago, you had fairly little choice in professions. If you dad did something, you were likely to do the same whether you liked it or not. And in many parts of the world today, if you don't work (whatever you can find) you don't eat! So work to meet the material needs of yourself and your family is fully honorable!

So then what ideas should I be holding in my mind on the Sabbath day of rest?

I think gratitude is one key thing to consciously cultivate on the Sabbath day. God rested on the Seventh Day after six (literal or figurative) days of labor in creating. Much like an artist standing back to look and enjoy the work, God did the same. And so as people in the artist's workshop, we should join God in doing the same. So if you like to tinker with your lawn and your flower beds, enjoy! If you want to toss the frisbee and shoot some hoops with your kids, knock yourself out. Partake with gratitude what God gives.

I think also there should be gratitude for how God meets our needs through the work of the other days of the week. Yes, it is our hands and minds doing work but who gave us minds and hands? And so we need to cultivate a thankful heart. Thus, some time of reflection beyond the corporate time of worship I think is going to be beneficial to us.