In 12 years of serving the Lord, I have heard countless sermons about tithing but only one sermon about taking one Sabbath Day of rest each week. Yet, observing the Sabbath is at least as important and beneficial as the practice of tithing. The Sabbath causes a blessing on our time in the way that tithing causes a blessing on our money and possessions. Unlike tithing, observing a Sabbath Day of rest is one of the Ten Commandments, right up there with “do not murder,” “honor your father and mother,” and “do not commit adultery.” As far as I know, God has not abolished any of these Ten Commandments (Matt. 5:17).
Certainly, we are under grace and not under the law. The sacrifice of Jesus has pardoned us from the penalty of our sins and empowered us to live holy lives. And yes, Jesus has called us to live in a state of perpetual and eternal Sabbath rest—not only on one day each week.
At the same time, Jesus did not abolish the fourth commandment that calls us to abstain from working for a 24-hour period each week. He knew that the practical benefits for honoring the Sabbath are too great for us to miss out on. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27). It’s not about proving something to God or earning something from God. Taking a Sabbath Day of rest is simply good for us and for our organizations. Here are four benefits for observing the Sabbath in a spiritual sense as well as in a practical sense.
During a personal time of prayer and Bible study one day back when I was attending graduate school, working full-time, writing my first book, and serving in several volunteer roles, I realized I was on a path of burnout and endless striving. Something had to change. The Holy Spirit drew my attention to this verse: “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psa. 46:10).
At that time, I decided to start taking one day of rest each week. (For me, that day was Sunday.) If something felt like “work,” I avoided it. Given my task-oriented personality and all of the time commitments I had on my schedule during that season of my life, setting aside this day of rest each week was difficult—at first. As I began to make and keep these Sunday appointments with God to relax and reflect, I began to experience the peace and clarity I had been missing in my life. On those days, I felt like an eagle, effortlessly soaring above the clouds, preparing to make my descent back into my weekly routine with a fresh perspective.
Now that I am married and have a toddler, my Sundays still consist of relaxation and reflection. Yes, it still requires a bit of work to change my 19-month-old son’s diapers on Sundays. It’s not about legalism. It’s a matter of the heart. When I go to bed on Sunday nights, my body, mind, and spirit will tell me whether or not they got recharged for the upcoming week. If I spent the day busily doing volunteer work or doing chores around the house, it wasn’t truly a day of rest.
Knowing that I have a full day of rest and relaxation ahead on Sundays helps me to be more productive during the week. It motivates me to avoid time-draining activities like excessive social media checking, excessive news reading, etc. As a result, I am more productive and effective working six days of the week than if I worked seven days without proper focus on my work.
Choosing to work only six days per week instead of seven is a practical way to invite God to “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12). As boundaries help an artist to create great art, choosing to observe the Sabbath weekly will help us to focus more on the quality of our work instead of the quantity.
We have all worked with people who seem to be constantly overwhelmed, angry, and/or anxious. At times, that person may have been the one looking back at us in the mirror.
Taking a Sabbath Day of rest is a practical way to experience the peace and strength that comes from resting in God. God said to Moses, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exod. 33:14). When God’s Presence is with us, we will find rest. To be sure, rest is something we must “find.” It won’t happen unless we make it a top priority, and observing the Sabbath is a practical and measurable place to start.
The Sabbath is a day to focus on what matters most in our lives. This day of rest reminds us that nothing at all is more important than God.
The founder of Chick-fil-a, the late Truett Cathy, credited the tradition of staying closed on Sundays as one of the top five reasons for the success of his restaurants. Cathy said,
“I was not so committed to financial success that I was willing to abandon my principles and priorities. One of the most visible examples of this is our decision to close on Sunday. Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and of directing our attention to things that mattered more than our business.”
Despite having their restaurants closed every Sunday—one of the busiest sales days of the week—Chick-fil-a has had more than 47 consecutive years of sales increases.
God made the Sabbath for you. Don’t miss out. It doesn’t matter which day. Just make it consistent. Make it sacred.
Discussion & Application: Personally and professionally, what are the benefits of observing the Sabbath Day? What is your Sabbath Day of rest?