The Most Ignored Commandment

It's one of the Bible's most well-known commandments. So why aren't we following it?

A recent poll of 2,000 pastors in North Carolina revealed that less than 10 percent are keeping a regular Sabbath.

Think about this for a moment. If 90 percent of pastors announced from the pulpit that murder (or stealing, or adultery) is OK, don’t you think it might raise a few eyebrows in the pews, let alone the press?

It’s true: Jesus freed us from temple and ritual laws, but nowhere does He say we get a pass on moral laws. Of all the moral laws, Christ is especially clear that we must honor the Top Ten.

In fact, he ups the ante: if the law says don’t commit murder, Jesus says don’t get mad at the person who just sent you a snarky text. If the law says don’t commit adultery, Jesus says don’t even surf the Internet looking for racy pictures.

The Ten Commandments are engraved twice in the walls of the Supreme Court building. Why? Even for people who don’t believe in God, they serve as the bedrock of morality. The Ten Commandments help keep civilization civilized.

For those of us who believe in the Creator, the Ten Commandments are gifts from the very hand of God. The first three commandments are about our relationship with the Lord. The fourth commandment is a bridge: it connects heaven and earth, God and people. The last six are about our relationship with humanity.

Once a week, God walks out on the Sabbath bridge to meet us. But most of us are no-shows; we unapologetically stand up the Creator of the universe, week after week.

Once a week, God walks out on the Sabbath bridge to meet us. But most of us are no-shows; we unapologetically stand up the Creator of the universe, week after week.

Time Debt

Our generation is the first in 2,000 years of church history that is on the go 24/7. But this experiment in Sabbath-less living is taking a huge toll. It’s called time debt. We overcommit. We multi-task. We stay so busy we don’t have enough time for relationships with family and friends, let alone God.

The result? Nonstop stress. When I asked my husband Matthew, a physician, about the physical consequences of stress, he gave me a mini-lesson on the endocrine system. If your body never knows when the next Stop Day is coming, it sends out stress hormones. These hormones are commonly known as the fight or flight response. If you’ve ever had a severe allergic reaction, a shot of adrenaline can save your life. A few hours later, however, you will feel utterly exhausted, like you’ve been run over by a truck.

Matthew went on to explain that when we are under stress long term, our bodies produce another stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol production contributes to a host of medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, weight gain, acne, depression, anxiety, sleep disruption, digestive problems, and memory and concentration impairment. The bottom line: constant stress doesn’t just make us tired and grumpy; it makes us ill.

So if you’re ready to start attempting to keep a Sabbath, here are a few ways you can start:

Block off Sabbath Time on Your Calendar.

Here’s a simple truth: It won’t happen unless you schedule it. For most people, Sabbath is celebrated on Sunday. For church leaders, hospital workers and people who provide emergency services, Sabbath might have to be moved to another day of the week.

Because our ministry requires frequent travel, I use Google calendar to schedule our Sabbaths at least four months in advance. This lets our staff know when we will be offline and allows them to plan accordingly.

Prepare Joyfully.

In today’s 24/7 world, Sabbath-keeping is countercultural; it doesn’t just happen by default. If you long to lay down your heavy burdens, you’ll need to be more intentional about your time the other six days of the week.

On Sabbath eve, I clean out my email inbox, finish chores and run errands with an almost giddy joy. I also plan ahead for holy fun, seeking out new places for a hike or picking out a book to read aloud with my husband.

Figure Out What “Work” is for You.

Scholars have argued for centuries about how to define rest. Here’s a simple definition: decide what work is for you and don’t do it on your Sabbath.

For people engaged in sedentary work during the week, puttering around in the garden on the Sabbath might be restful. For people who do manual labor, holy rest might mean taking a nap.

Pray and Play.

Eugene Peterson, one of my theological heroes and author of The Message, once said that there are only two rules for Sabbath: play and pray. Now in his eighth decade of life, Peterson also believes Sabbath-keeping is the best thing he ever did for his marriage, his children and his ministry.

You Might Also Like

In today’s 24/7 world, Sabbath-keeping is countercultural; it doesn’t just happen by default. You’ll need to be more intentional about your time the other six days of the week.

My family and I have been keeping the Sabbath for the past dozen years, and all I can say is “Amen!” Now grown, our kids kept the Sabbath throughout high school, college, medical school and now residency. The Sabbath gave them something almost none of their peers had, even while attending a Christian college: a day off. No homework, no chores, no shopping—just time with family, friends and God.

Find a Sabbath Buddy.

My husband I run a nonprofit together. We both have workaholic tendencies. We both love our work. This is a dangerous combination. Yet no matter what deadlines are looming, my husband and I do not work on the Sabbath. When one of us begins to “talk shop,” we gently remind each other to give it a rest.

Sabbath is best practiced in community. So find a Sabbath buddy. Help each other to create a Sabbath plan: what you’ll need to do to get ready, how you’ll celebrate, and what you’ll avoid on your day of rest. Then check in and encourage each other.

Top Comments

Marcelo Plioplis


Marcelo Plioplis replied to Adam Brewster's comment

Why does the Sabbath need to be associated with the law? It was hallowed during creation week, it was set apart for eternity. Isaiah also prophecies that we'll gather from one Sabbath to the next on the new earth, once this world is made new.

So I choose to celebrate Sabbath because apart from law, it's been a holy day ever since the first week in creation. I don't get saved from keeping or not keeping, but I rejoice in the finished work of creation. "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy because in six days I created..."

He was done on the seventh. All you and I can do is rest. Everything else is done.

I'm also reminded as the Jews are, every Sabbath, that God told them to remember the Sabbath and be merciful to their slaves and workers, as God had been to them. "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.…"

On the Sabbath, we are reminded that the Lord worked and got them out of Egypt by His hand. The Israelites did nothing except go along and follow him. They had no part in their own deliverance from slavery. They simply rest and remember.

Finally, the Sabbath reminds me that Christ finished His work of redemption on Good Friday. All was done. I have to do nothing except believe. I simply rest, as He did on the tomb.

Now, to go back to the article, why are we supposed to "choose" a day? When it's clear from Scripture that the seventh day is the Sabbath?

Great article, but I'm puzzled about the casual choice of any day that is convenient...

Tammy Andrews


Tammy Andrews commented…

All in all a good article, except for this statement, “So if you’re ready to start attempting to keep a Sabbath”. In the bible “Sabbath” is most often preceded by “the” or “my”. The few times it is preceded by “a” there is a clear distinction as to what is being referenced. It is never left open ended for the reader to decide to what day the “a” is referring. More specifically the Ten Commandments say “the Sabbath” not “a Sabbath”. The fourth commandment makes clear what Sabbath it is talking about, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week or what we now know as Saturday.




Louis commented…

Find YOUR Sabbath buddy... Celebrate Togetherness! ... Life is short… and “HAPPINESS 24/7” should be the goal… Am I right?… As a musician, I’ve seen a lot of BAD relationships. My job, is simply to make em’ smile and dig the cool music for a few hours and that’s about it… But now to create Happiness 24/7, that is something entirely different; and that’s why I wanted to create an online community to review and discuss great relationship content here with others. Discover how YOU can indeed attract the right person and finally “SNATCH” that great relationship you’ve always dreamed of... Now go get YOURS… while the joint is jumpin’. "Click Here":

John M. Kirton II


John M. Kirton II commented…

This is one of THE most easiest commandments to follow! I LOVE keeping the Sabbath! I don't find it difficult AT ALL to just say to myself, "You know what? TAKE A BREAK ALREADY!"

Alan Eicher


Alan Eicher commented…

Christians are not under the law, ceremonial OR moral. It's all or nothing. James says if you stumble at one point you're guilty of ALL of it. Nowhere, either, does Jesus say we are free from the temple or ritual laws. Jesus' teachings were as one under the law to those under the law. He wasn't handing out loopholes in the sermon on the mount. His concluding point was "Be perfect as God is perfect. so where does that leave us? Under grace. Here is a list of scripture about the law and ours and Christ's relationship to it. It is eye-opening. Sin is dead APART from the law not under it. learn the freedom of living under grace. While it is a good idea to rest on a regular basis, Jesus is our Sabbath as every other point of the law has been fulfilled in him.

The Law:

Has been set aside (Heb.10: 8-10)
Is weak and useless. Made nothing perfect. (Heb. 7:18-19)
Was made obsolete, is aging and will soon disappear. (Heb. 8:13)
Is cancelled. (Col. 2:13-14)
Is not for the righteous. (1 Tim. 1:8-10)
Is unable to impart life. (Gal. 3:21)
Actually AROUSES sin in your life. (Rom. 7:5,8)
Lacks ANY VALUE for righteous living. (Col. 2:20-23)
Curses and condemns. (Gal. 3:10, 2 Cor. 3:7-9)
Brings death. (Rom. 7:10)
Was fulfilled BY Christ FOR us. (Gal. 4:4-5, Matt. 5:17-18, Rom. 8:3-4)
Living by the law is trying to perfect ourselves through the flesh (self-help). (Gal. 3:3, Philippians 3:36)


Was born under the law. (Gal. 4:4-5)
Is the end of the law. (Rom 10:4)
Fulfilled the law in us. (Matt. 5:17-18, Rom. 8:3-4)
Cancelled the written code. (Col. 2:13-14)


Are not supervised by the law. (Gal. 3:24-25)
Not under the law. (Gal. 5:18), but under grace. (Rom. 6:14)
Are dead to the law and released from the law. (Rom. 7:4-6)
Are to LIVE in Him the same way we RECEIVED Him; by grace through faith. (Col. 2:6, Gal. 2:20)
Have had the requirements of the law FULLY met in them by Christ and are not to live according to the flesh (our own effort) but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:3-4)
Are to rely on GRACE to teach us how to live upright and godly lives. (Titus 2:11-14)
Will succeed in not gratifying the desires of the flesh, not by using the law as a guide, but by living by the Spirit. (Gal. 5:16)

Someone posted this and I thought it was eye opening.
"The Apostle Paul told the Galatians that to go back to relying upon our performance rather than Christ's finished work amounts to...

- Turning away from Christ (1:6)
- Setting aside the grace of God (2:21a)
- Making Christ's death in vain (2:21b)......
- Not obeying the truth (3:1; 5:7)
- Returning to bondage (4:9; 5:1)
- Becoming obligated to keep the Law perfectly (5:3)
- Becoming estranged from Christ (5:4)
- Falling from grace (5:4)
- Becoming susceptible to the flesh (5:16-26)

Why be afraid of grace? The power of sin is the Law, but the power over sin is grace! Receive it. Believe it. Abide in it. If you're a believer, you are secure in Him...Live from that reality and sin won't be your master (Romans 6:14).”

Matthew Kingston


Matthew Kingston commented…

It seems that Jesus, at the very least, took exception to the accepted definition of sabbath by healing on the sabbath. This raises the question, "What constitutes work?". Ironically we use Jesus' example of healing to absolve pastors from violation of sabbath. So to deal with this difficulty, we are required to define sabbath, not as a particular day, but as an arbitrary day of rest. There were many weeks when the performance of my pastoral duties required 8 or 9 days of consecutive work days. I'm all for the idea of a weekly day of rest. I am concerned that this is just another bullet in the chamber of a gun called legalism.

Please log in or register to comment

Log In