A question can be read with the emphasis on anyone of the words in a given sentence. The title question can be read: Is it the Lord’s Day?; Is It the Lord’s Day?; Is it the Lord’s Day?; or Is it the Lord’s Day? In this article the question will be read with the emphasis on “Day”: Is it the Lord’s Day? The reason for the emphasis on “Day” is because that word in the 4th commandment is being ignored by many churchgoers. Most Christians acknowledge and profess that it is the Lord’s Day, but many in their observance of the Sabbath (observed on Sunday after Christ’s resurrection) fail to keep Sunday as the Lord’s Day.
The fourth commandment as given in Exodus 20:8 says: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (emphasis mine). Presently, many in the Christian community in their Sunday observance are replacing the word “day” in that commandment with the words “hour or two.” They seem content with giving only a part of Sunday to the Lord — as much time as one worship service requires, either morning or evening and sometimes neither. The Pharisees erred in their observance of the Sabbath day by adding man-made laws; but, I fear, that modem Christianity is going to the other extreme, disregarding the word “day” in God’s commandment and keeping the Sabbath day holy only as long as it is convenient for them, and it fits their pleasure seeking and busy schedules. Many today have a Lord’s morning for an hour or two but the rest of Sunday is no more the Lord’s holy day than any other day of self pursuits. The Lord only asks for 1/7th of our time in a whole week—one day out of seven, but a whole day for the Lord doesn’t fit our modem lifestyle.
I ask you to specifically take note of the word “day” and its pronoun “it” in the entire 4th commandment:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy, (Exodus 20:8–11) (emphasis mine).
Present-day churchgoers are hearing that commandment read on Sunday morning if they attend a church still reading the ten commandments. Having heard the 4th commandment, some professing Christians, after an hour in a worship service, go their way using the rest of the day in any way they find pleasurable and satisfying for themselves, as if God doesn’t mean what He says. Also, please notice that God in His commandment does not say He wants most or some of our Sabbaths to be holy. His commandment demands we make every Sabbath day of every week holy.
The following are some classic excuses and rationalizations used for giving the Lord only part or none of His day:
1. “We don’t make a practice of traveling on Sunday, but we had to be back for work (or school) on Monday.”
2. “We don’t like to travel on Sunday, but the airline tickets were so much cheaper if we flew on Sunday or stayed over Saturday night.”
3. “We plan to travel Sunday, but we plan to be home in time to attend the evening worship service”; or “We plan to attend the morning service, have lunch, and then travel home. We don’t make a practice of skipping church, so I think God will understand.”
4. “The church-sponsored retreat or gathering concluded Saturday night (or Sunday). We had to use Sunday to pack our things, travel back, and pick up the children. It made an exhausting Sunday, but that was the way it was scheduled.”
5. “We plan on traveling back from vacation on Sunday, but we hope to stop at a church on the way Sunday morning and then travel the rest of the way home afterward, which allows us to stay one day longer at our vacation spot.”
6. “We were out so late Saturday night into early Sunday morning that we didn’t go to church Sunday morning. We were too tired to be good listeners and active participants anyway.”
7. “Sunday was so busy with all the family (or other company) down for a big dinner that I was just too exhausted to go to church afterwards; but I believe family time is important, and our family needs it.”
8. “I don’t like going to work onSunday, but it works out well for me. My spouse can babysit, and I get time and a half pay. I try to get to church for either morning or evening service.”
9. “I didn’t get all of my checking and/or preparation finished for teaching Monday. My weekend was so busy, and I needed the work finished for my classroom Monday; therefore, I had to do my teacher work on Sunday.”
10. “I have a big exam and/or assignment due on Monday. I didn’t get a chance to complete my schoolwork earlier with my busy student schedule so I had to do it on Sunday.”
11. “The business convention or meeting was scheduled on Sunday so I didn’t get to church,” or “I only went to a morning service for an hour.”
When one analyzes the preceding sample of excuses, whom have the people convinced besides themselves? Do you believe the excuses and rationalizations convince God?
Is it the Lord’s Day when we go to church in the morning, but then spend the rest of the day in our choice of pursuits? Is it the Lord’s Day when we have stayed out so late on Saturday night or into early Sunday morning that we have to sleep in on Sunday, or when we do go to the Sunday morning worship service, we are so tired that our head nods frequently and not for the purpose of ex-pressing agreement or approval? Is it the Lord’s Day when part of our Sunday is devoted to our work or business?
Have you thought how God must feel? He has given us the invitation to come to meet with Him in His house. How do you think God feels when money, work, business, family, friends, sports, recreation, or travel is more important to us than meeting with Him in His house? How much preparation do you go through to accept an invitation to be a guest at someone’s home? Do you think you would be invited again very quickly by a host or hostess if you appeared bored and your head nodded through much of the visit? We’re often willing to give God less than we would give to people out of politeness. How would you feel if your guests came to your house with the lack of enthusiasm or listing as many excuses for not coming to your house as some do for not coming to God’s house? If someone declined the invitation of a host or hostess as often and as easily as some are declining God’s invitation to His house in our day, I doubt, if there would be an invitation from that host or hostess anymore.
Negligent church attendance and a negative attitude toward Sunday observance and/or going to church, speaks volumes to children about where their parents stand as to their relationship with God. Actions speak much louder to the children than words such parents are speaking to them about God. The Bible does not specifically command us to go to church two times. Hebrews 10:25 says: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” “Once a day” worshipers reduce their own and their children’s spiritual weekly feeding by 50% of what is available. In a child’s life-time from 5 years old through age 18, families who attend church once a Sunday rather than two times deprive a child of about 728 opportunities to learn more about God. That translates into the loss of 728 opportunities for sharing in the means of grace on Sundays alone. If a child’s physical diet were cut by 50%, his physical strength would be affected. I believe it holds true spiritually as well for children and adults. Limiting one’s spiritual diet results in a malnourished spiritual life. A Christian with a lack of Bible knowledge and conviction is more easily swayed and led away by false teachers and teachings. Christians need God’s Word in their hearts and minds. A Christian who is weaker in God’s Word, will more easily become spiritually discouraged, will have more difficulty distinguishing right from wrong, and becomes an easier prey for Satan. Failing to stay immersed in God’s Word weakens a person’s spiritual life. As a result, the Word loses its power and control in one’s own life and witness to others.
In addition to all the above benefits, can you think of a better way for a Christian to keep the Lord’s Day holy and remove temptations of misuse of the day than being in God’s house for worship and be under the influence of His Word, prayer, and songs of praise? I believe Christians make obedience to the 4th commandment easier for themselves by being in church two times rather than just once with a large block of time on Sunday to use or misuse at one’s own discretion.
The attitude in the home toward Sunday and worship is so very important. If parents are creating a “ho-hum” attitude toward Sunday and worship, their children as adults will likely have even less enthusiasm than their parents. The attitude of the parents toward Sunday either develops an appetite for observing the Lord’s Day, or a “take it or leave it” attitude. When the children grow up and establish their own homes, the children whose appetites were developed for the Sabbath day will more likely continue to be faithful church goers and Sabbath day observers. From homes where Sunday observance and worship were adjusted to the family’s convenience and pleasure, the children as adults often become infrequent or non-churchgoers. It takes only three generations to go from a faithful church going family to a non-church attending family. If the first generation attended church faithfully, but the second generation needs only a flimsy excuse to skip church, the third generation tends to become infrequent or non-churchgoers.
Parents and grandparents, you have a tremendous responsibility before God toward your children and grandchildren in how you use the Sabbath day. Is your talk about worship positive? Do you show a positive attitude toward going to church and obeying the 4th commandment? Do you show a delight and honor for the Lord’s Day? Dad and/or Mom,does your use of Sunday make Sunday a negative day of the week for your children? Do your frequent absences on Sunday for work, business, recreation, or travel make Sunday a less enjoyable day of the week for your family?
Sunday observance should not become legalistic, but that does not appear to be our problem today. I believe our present situation is more apt to be the error of the Pharisee in reverse by churchgoers diminishing God’s command. For many professing Christians it appears Sunday has lost its holiness. Some church members seem to feel they have the liberty to use the day as they please. It is not at all uncommon for present-day churchgoers to use Sunday as one of their travel days either to or from their destination. It seems strange that it so often necessitates Sunday to be the start or finish of business or vacation excursions, including honeymoons. A couple’s marriage on Friday night or Saturday is performed with all the Christian rituals and declarations of God as the center of the marriage and home; but when Sunday comes, the couple uses the Lord’s Day traveling to their honeymoon destination.
God has included the word day in His command. It’s our duty out of gratitude and obedience, to abide by His given Word. We as Christians must fit our lifestyle to conform to God’s command,not the modern version today of fitting God’s command to our lifestyle. God is getting short-changed when we give Him only a fraction of Sunday and merely some of our Sundays in a month or a year. “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27b). Our bodies and souls need the rest from daily physical and emotional stresses, they also need the spiritual feeding. We need the Sabbath both spiritually and physically. Jesus said, “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). He did not say that MAN or WOMAN was Lord of the Sabbath.
God has said: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Are you giving the Lord His one day out of the seven days He has given you? It is important for each of us to evaluate our Sundays. Are we making it the Lord’s Day? I know of no better standard to use as our measure for evaluating our observance of the 4th commandment than the following words of Scripture as found in Isaiah 58:13 and 14:
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then yell will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Is your observance of Sunday helping you or hindering you and your family in finding your joy in the Lord as described in Isaiah 58:13–14? Is the Son of Man, or are you the Lord of your Sabbath? Are you making all of your Sundays the Lord’s Day?
Jan Groenendyk was a Christian Schoolteacher for twenty seven years. Her husband is Rev. Marion Groenendyk and they are members of First Zeeland CRC, Zeeland, MI.