The Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
The essential meaning of this commandment is to take a rest, to abstain from labor. For the Israelites, God appointed the seventh day, Saturday — or really Friday evening to Saturday evening, since Jews considered a day differently than we do — as the day of rest, signifying it to be a day more sacred than all others. In fact, this commandment was given to the Jews particularly and in its widest sense is not meant for Christians because this commandment was attached to their customs and traditions which Christians do not follow.
But for Christians, we look at this commandment differently, in part as it is attached to our customs and traditions, but more importantly how it is attached to faith.
Fundamentally, this commandment teaches Christian employers and overseers that they are to provide a day of rest and relaxation each week for their employees. An employee may choose not to avail himself of such a day, and that’s his choice, but the employer should provide it, at least a day, if not two, so that his employees aren’t burned out, or disgruntled, and so production isn’t hindered by tired laborers.
But a second use exists for Christians, that each man, woman, and child of the faith should set time apart each week to attend the Divine Service, where the Word of God is preached and the Sacrament administered, where God’s people gather to pray, praise, and give Him thanks. This need not be a specific day or time as it was with the Jews, because no day is greater than the next for believers, but all days are given by God, holy, and to be devoted to God and His people. But in the church, there must be one day each week set apart for worship. For the historic church, this is generally Sunday. And though Sunday is a great day because it’s the Lord’s Day, it is no sin if a church deems it good to set the day as Monday or Friday or whatever, as long as it be weekly, because God’s people need it. Further, setting aside Sunday as this day is consistent with the church historic, and it provides for good order.
This does not mean, however, that Christians are not allowed to work or tend to flocks or fields, mow the lawn, or wash clothes on this day. But it certainly does mean that work, in general, should not supersede weekly worship. In other words, if the church sets Sunday as the day of worship and praise, prayer and the Sacrament, then the believers should not neglect this weekly gathering for the sake of work. Doing so is a breach of both the first and second commandment, as we’ve already learned.
Unfortunately, many employers these days are not Christian and have no concern for their Christian employees who wish to worship on a set day each week. We can certainly insist upon such a day, and we can choose employment that does honor such a day, but most often we will not find it. There just aren’t that many Chick fil a’s! So, for Christians what is more important is not simply setting a day aside to be holy, godly, and have our minds set on His Word, but to make EVERY day a day set apart for the Lord. This means we should read our Scripture, study the Catechism, pray, praise, and give thanks every day, that we should constantly teach our children the commandments, the creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and read the Scripture to them. We should allow ourselves time to be with God, to listen to God, and to thank Him.
We break this commandment when we greedily neglect to hear God’s Word and would much rather avail ourselves with partying and debauchery, engaging in adulterous sexual activity, laziness and sloth, while spending little to no time in prayer and worship or receiving the Sacrament. Those who attend church once a year, on Easter or Christmas, have determined in their hearts that worldly life and career holds precedence over God and His Word, and thus break this and all the commandments without any fear or acknowledgment. Others attend church and hear preaching regularly but refuse to be admonished and corrected. They hear without listening and so break this commandment. They’d much rather scream and yell at the pastor for preaching and teaching the truth than be corrected and called to repent of their misdeeds.
Another way of scandalizing this commandment is when people attend the service of Word and Sacrament, listen and take part for a while, but then allow boredom to possess them, or they think they’ve learned enough and no longer need instruction. In these way God’s Word is taken from them by the devil and they don’t even know it.
As already stated, this commandment is different for Christians than for Jews. For Christians, it’s not about a specific day, but about honoring and hearing God every day, though they may set a day aside each week for the Divine Service, and not elevating work or career over God, and not elevating the desires and passions of the flesh over God so that precedence is given to carnal living, laziness, indifference and the like rather than God and His Word.
Prayer: Dear God, help me honor You above all else and fill my days with Your Word. Give me the fortitude to gather with Your people on the day set apart for Word and Sacrament, so that the devil does not steal me from Your salvation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.