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A Sacred Balance?

A Sacred Balance?
Dwight Powell carries a heavy load. He serves as the commanding officer for St. Mary’s police force on the island of Jamaica in the West Indies and is also a leader of his Sabbath-keeping church. Many have wondered how this Sabbath keeper can also serve in a public office that requires work on Saturday. Wouldn’t this conflict with God’s fourth commandment in Exodus 20:9, 10?

In a recent article called “Balancing Church and Work,” Powell addresses this question in this way: “When it comes to the issue of working on the Sabbath, I ask myself the question: ‘If Jesus was here, what would He have done?’ When I look at His ministry, it was very public and most of what He did was done on the Sabbath Day. He declared that it is good to do good on the Sabbath, as long as you’re not doing a routine service that could’ve been done another day.”

Does the Bible support the concept of “essential services” in helping others on the Sabbath? The fourth commandment certainly forbids secular work for the purpose of making a profit. Yet it doesn’t condone total inactivity. In both the Old and New Testaments, we find examples of helping to care for people, and even animals, who are suffering on the Sabbath. (See Matthew 12:11 and Luke 14:5.)

When Jesus passed through a grain field and His disciples plucked heads of grain to eat, they were criticized for breaking the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1–8), but Christ defended them. Soon after this Christ healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath—an act that could have occurred on any other day of the week. There are seven Sabbath healings recorded in the gospels—Matthew 12:9–14; Mark 1:21–28; and John 5:1–16, to name just a few.

The Bible does not directly address every situation about Sabbath observance that might come up in our day. It is important that we keep in mind underlying principles for properly keeping the Sabbath holy. While good works are appropriate on the Sabbath, we can spend so much of our time doing such works that we neglect the importance of rest and focusing on God (Genesis 2:1–3). On the other hand, our rest can become a time of self-centered laziness and indifference toward others.

Whatever our Sabbath activity choices, let us remember to honor God and set aside all secular activities, personal entertainment, employment for the purpose of our gain, and remember to take time for worship, quiet communion with God, moments in nature, and to relieve suffering. The Sabbath is a delight—not because we focus on ourselves but because it is a special time to draw close to the Lord.

Should Christians observe the Sabbath like the Orthodox Jews do? Get a Bible answer by clicking here.
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