Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Sabbath and Going Out for Lunch after Church

Question 117: How is the sabbath or the Lord's day to be sanctified?
Answer: The sabbath or Lord's day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to betaken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God's worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.
- Westminster Larger Catechism 

At a former church, it was our practice all to go to lunch together after Sunday worship. It was a very small church, only about a dozen members, and we were widely dispersed, so participation was necessary if I were to have any sort of  relationships with my brethren. Doing that caused me great discomfort of conscience, because I believe that a Christian should avoid commercial activity on the Lord's Day. As the IVth Commandment says, we are not only to rest from our own labors, but also to relieve our servants of theirs. I am glad to say that my current situation doesn't put me in that conflict.

Some excuse eating out on Sundays as giving the wife the opportunity to rest. I think that is a good concern. However, I cannot accept that one person honors the Day by putting the work off on someone else.

Consider the Commandment itself (Exodus 20:10), "the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. 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." It is forbidden even to put the labor off onto one's employees or animals. I have seen this described as the first labor legislation.

Nehemiah expands this even further. Nehemiah 10:31 tells us, "if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day. And we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt." And Neh. 13:15, "In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food." Both of these verses describe people who willingly profit from providing Lord's Day labor to resting believers. Yet, this voluntary labor is still forbidden. And this is exactly what is happening when believers "honor" the Lord's Day by going to commercial establishments, where others profit from violating the Fourth Commandment.

Where I live, restaurants are swamped on Sunday afternoons. I sincerely believe that this grieves the Lord.


Anonymous said...

That is a tough thing to be consistently loyal to. I am dealing with it because I searched for a job for ten months. I first searched very diligently for jobs that would not require working on the Sabbath. I finally got to the bottom of the list and realized that I would have to work on Sunday in order to get a job, the competition is fierce in my area. It is tough because I was using up a lot of savings every month I did not get a job of some sort. It was tough to sort through because I knew that no one in my family or church could help us if we ran out of savings. The church is using a lot of resources helping others that need it even more than we do at the moment. On the other hand I wondered if I was not trusting God to provide me a good job. But having a job would enable me to be of service to a needy family member as well as my refugee friends that have needed my help for months (I was using up savings to help them). I too wish that people would not go out to eat on Sunday...then I would not have to work on Sundays!

Chris Cole said...

I can actually sympathize more than you realize. I lost a job over Sunday work, and was unemployed for about ten months.

I would never try to bind your conscience on this matter. However, I would encourage you to seek the Lord's favor in this matter. If the Lord's Day is valuable to Him, as I believe it is, I am sure that He would both give spiritual encouragement and unexpected opportunities in response to your desire to do things His way.

jim P. said...

I remember listening to Dr. D. James Kennedy once on the radio where he said that he and his wife had gone out to eat after Sunday morning worship service and asked the waitress about coming, or going to church. She replied by telling him that she would go to church if Christians would stop coming to the restaurant where she worked that prevented her from going. With that, he felt convicted and from that day forward never went out to eat on the Lord's day again. I would have to agree. The church I attend does this sometimes but I decline from going for this very reason.