Sunday is a Day of Work

Everybody should work on the Lord’s Day. He who does not work sins and disobeys God. Sunday work is a moral “must.”

Superficially, the Fourth Commandment seems to forbid work. Not so. It forbids one kind of work and commands another kind.

“Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy” is the eternal, unchanging law of God. “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God. In it thou shalt not do any work…”  (Ex. 20:8–10).

It is true that God commands man to cease from his daily work. The creature must imitate the Creator. God labored six days and rested the seventh. So man is to work six days and rest the seventh. But God’s rest was not a period of inactivity. “My Father works up to now; and I work” (John 5:17). After God completed his creative work in the six days, he rested from that kind of work; but he has worked in another way since then, upholding the universe by his providence. So also man is commanded to cease from his normal weekday work in order that he may engage in another kind of work, such as corporate worship, prayer and Bible reading.

If on Sunday man continues to work for his living, he will have no time to keep the day holy. Likewise, if children do their homework on Sunday, the goal of the commandment will suffer. The Fourth Commandment even forbids the Christian to cause others to work—the manservant and the maidservant. He may not induce others to do what he is forbidden to do. Thus the Christian refrains from shopping, attending sports or dramas, or patronizing gas stations. For such actions entice others to violate God’s law. Thus God’s will is that on Sunday there be a cessation of man’s daily work.

But, the Sabbath is not a day of inactivity. It is not simply a day of rest and doing nothing. In imitation of God’s rest—a working rest—man is also to rest, but it is to be a working rest. The heart of the commandment is activity -not idleness. Its purpose is not a cessation of all work, but a cessation of daily work so that man can engage in Sunday work. If man is idle—if he sleeps and plays the day away -he has not kept the Fourth Commandment. God said : “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.”This purpose demands energy, effort, activity, work. Meaningful prayer can be exhausting. Intelligent, spiritual wrestling with the Bible is tiring. Self abandonment in corporate worship is strenuous.

Yes, Sunday should be a day of work.

Rev. Edwin H. Palmer is pastor of the Grandville Ave. Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Mich.