Bible - General Questions

What If I Need to Work on the Lord's Day?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
A reader asks a question that is, no doubt, on many Christians' minds. Scripture speaks clearly to believers on this matter.
From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

One of our readers has asked a question that is, no doubt, on the minds of many Christians in our time. Scripture speaks clearly to New Covenant believers on this matter.

Here is a summary of our reader's question:

I believe that the Lord's Day should be a day kept with Him for prayer, study and worship. However, my personal circumstances make it necessary for me to seek employment. The only options open to me require work on Sundays. I am torn between my desire to please God by honoring the day, and my need to have an income to support myself. Can you offer any advice?

Here is a summary of my answer:

I commend you for your desire to set apart the Lord's Day in a Biblical manner. The question is, what constitutes a Biblical manner? This is an area where we must look at Biblical truth in light of the New Covenant. Clearly, the Sabbath predates the Mosaic law, having its roots in God's rest after His six-day work of creation (Genesis 2:2-3). Israel under the Mosaic law was bound to do no work on the Sabbath under penalty of death (Exodus 31:15). We of the New Covenant are not under that law, but that does not mean we are to ignore the Sabbath:

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us [the Jewish law], which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths [Paul is speaking here of the manner of observing these things required under the Jewish law], which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both [Jew and Gentile] one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:14-18)

It is noteworthy that in the opening verses of Matthew chapter twelve, Jesus Himself, when falsely accused of violating the Jewish Sabbath law, pointed out that even the Mosaic law did not prohibit acts of necessity (verses 3-4), service to God (5-6) or mercy (7-8):

  1. At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
  2. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!"
  3. But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:
  4. how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
  5. Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?
  6. Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.
  7. But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless.
  8. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

In a parallel account in Mark 2:27, Jesus stated the principle that "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." God instituted the Sabbath to benefit mankind by giving us a day to rest from our labors. The day is to be a blessing to man, not a burden. The Jewish legalists had turned it into a burden and had made man a slave to a mountain of extra-Biblical regulations that took the focus off of God's true intent for the Day. In the same way, many Christian legalists in our time do the same thing.

Note also that Jesus' teaching on the Sabbath in Matthew 12 immediately follows His words at the end of chapter 11:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

It was in direct response to this statement of Jesus - which flew in the face of the Pharisees' super-legalism - that they falsely accused Jesus of violating the Sabbath. And so Jesus used the opportunity to state clearly that the Sabbath is to be a blessing and not a burden.

We also find in the book of Hebrews that God's Sabbath rest after the work of creation is typical of the believer's rest in Christ:

For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"...There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:4, 9-10)

With these things in mind, I would encourage you in the following directions:

  • Pray for, and seek, employment that will not require you to work on the Lord's Day.
  • If the only opportunities the Lord makes available at this time involve work on the Lord's Day, take it as coming from Him, as a matter of present necessity. Do what you can to set aside non-working parts of the day for worship, rest, and fellowship with Him. Continue to be on the lookout for another job opportunity that would not involve Sunday work.
  • As you establish a track record as a good and faithful employee in a job that requires Sunday work, you may be in a position to make your desire not to have to work on the Lord's Day known to your employer, and the Lord may open the opportunity for your working hours to be changed to exclude Sundays. Work and pray to that end as well.

May the God who has promised wisdom to those who ask in faith (James 1:5), and to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20) guide your every step.


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