Metallic Pea

Frustrating People Since 1971.

48 Hours in Labour

with 12 comments

I should begin by lending voice (as much as can be had by the written word) to the caveat that–and it should come as no surprise to those of you who know me–I cannot read nor write Hebrew.  In fact, I have very little inclination to learn how to do so at all–short of being offered an insane amount of scratch to take it up.  Therefore, everything you are about to read below (and you are going to read it, aren’t you?) could be so much nonsense, being based as it is in the English tongue.  As Mark wrote in his Gospel (this time in Greek): ‘Let the reader understand.’

The diversity of the stimuli which get me thinking any number of thoughts is actually quite frightening.  To-day it was an obscenely large home builders sign on Highway 6 that began my self-reflection upon the Fourth Commandment, of all things.  Methinks it was the enourmous script declaring that, despite the bottom having fallen out of the housing market, the builders in question are defiantly ‘OPEN DAILY!‘  Now, I’m no math-magician but even I know that includes Sunday which is–at least according to 99% of professing Christians and intellectually honest pagans–the Sabbath.

It is not my desire to embark here upon the well-worn (and, alas, often quixotic) debate regarding whether the keeping of the Sabbath is still incumbent upon the Church.  (It is my position that it is.)  Rather, I began thinking about the entirety of the commandment rather than the truncated version seen on courthouse lawns and bumper stickers:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep 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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  ~ Exodus 20:8-10

It is the second sentence which grabbed me: ‘Six days you shall labor…’  Notice, it does not read ‘Six days you may labor’ nor ‘can labor.’  No–shall.  Imperative.

Does this mean that ‘taking Saturday off’ violates God’s strictures?  Is taking Saturday off–‘resting from our labor’–in violation of the commandment?  To be sure, laziness is always sinful but a day of recreation…sinful?  It is not my position here that one must work a literal six-day week in order to remain in accord with the Fourth Commandment.  Still, in view of the entire passage, I am open to being persuaded.  Nonetheless, it was an interesting conversation with myself as I drove home from well, work, this afternoon, one which remains unresolved as of this writing and which I thought others may find interesting.

I welcome any thoughts, insights, or opinions on the matter.  (Keeping in mind that it is my prerogative to delete any comments that cause me to weep.)


Written by ninepoundhammer

April 3, 2008 at 1:58 am

12 Responses

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  1. If you’re going to go down this trail, I think you have to start by defining work. What was work for an Israelite wandering in the wilderness or living in Canaan? I think it would represent a little historical short-sightedness to assume that the 6 and 1 work-rest cycle directly translates to the employment practices of a modern, western economy (not to say that you have made this leap, Matt, but I think it is important to remember in general). I am not saying there may not be some implications, but it is not a one-to-one correlation.

    An important aspect of this definition of work should concern what work God calls Christians to do. I know the Westminster Standards (the historical documents, not the softball team) allow for deeds of mercy and necessity on the Lord’s Day. But how does our status as strangers and pilgrims, kingdom laborers, and the church militant influence our understanding of work and rest. Are we ever allowed to rest from our struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil or from forwarding God’s kingdom in our homes and among our friends? Even when “worldly work” is done, the Christian’s kingdom work continues.

    There is a sense in which no day on this side of heaven is truly a day of rest. Either we are working in our fight against sin, or we are confronted by the impositions of life, like a flat tire on the way to church or the work parents must always do in attending to their children. Deeds of mercy and necessity are still deeds. The rest we enjoy here is evasive and provisional.

    My inclination is that discussions of the 4th commandment are often too narrow. This is not to say that the creation pattern of work and rest (which was codified in the law of Moses) is not practical. Even I, a non-sabbatarian, can whole-heartedly say that it should convict us of the idolatries of worshiping our work as well as our leisure. But we need to be careful that we don’t allow practical concerns to overwhelm the deeper biblical theological significance of the sabbath. We are working now, but looking forward to true, complete rest.


    April 3, 2008 at 7:38 am

  2. As you mentioned, Kyle, such a discussion is complicated when one of the parties involved is not a Sabbatarian. Suffice it to say, by ‘work’, I mean it in the common, everyday sense of the word (worldly affairs and recreations). The crux of my inquiry was whether the sixth day (i.e., Saturday or weekend day usually used for rest/ recreation) should be utilised as the other five work days, especially regarding the wording of the commandment writ large: ‘Six days you shall work…’

    And as it regards the Sabbath, deeds of mercy and necessity are, of course, allowed–the Ox in the Ditch correlary still applies.


    April 3, 2008 at 8:38 am

  3. My question is, from a Sabbatarian interpretation of the Scripture, can you say that there is a difference between “going to work” from 8-5 Monday through Friday and spending your Saturday mowing your grass and cleaning the house? According to your view, does the OT have in mind a specific kind of work when it gives its command? With the possible exception of college students, I don’t know too many people who have Saturdays that are completely devoted to recreation and leisure. It is obviously incorrect that work for the OT people of God meant “something you get paid to do from 8-5, Sunday through Friday.” But what did it mean? And how do we translate what it meant for them to what it means for a convinced Sabbatarian in the 21st century? How do you justify the interpretive move you must make to get from what work meant for them to what work means for us?

    Further, does the OT or NT tell us what a work day is? Is it 8 hours, 12 hours, 16 hours, whatever your boss requires?

    These are genuine questions. It would seems that a Sabbatarian position would require that some guidelines be nailed down that all Christians could follow. Otherwise, how can anyone be certain that they are obeying the 4th commandment?


    April 3, 2008 at 11:42 am

  4. Kyle, I think you are splitting hairs. It doesn’t matter to me whether the ‘work day’ is 8 or 80 hours, the 4th Commandment requires that NO work should be done on the Sabbath (save for those of mercy and/ or necessity).

    The Westminster Standards provide valuable insight:

    ‘This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations; but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.’ (WCF 21.8)

    As for what constitutes ‘work’, I think that a proper understanding it by a ‘good and necessary consequence may be deduced’ from the admonition cited above (to borrow language from the Confession). Work is work whether it is reviewing presidential documents, slinging hash, delivering the post, cutting the grass, or washing the dishes. It really matters not whether one even recieves remuneration or compensation for said activities, in my view.

    But let’s not get lost in semantics. Let us say that we can agree on what constitutes ‘work’; does, then, the 4th Commandment (again, pretend we are all Sabbatarians here) require that we work six days out of the week?


    April 3, 2008 at 12:34 pm

  5. I’m clear on the idea of what you would say is prohibited on the Lord’s Day.

    I would say that if you’re going hold to a Sabbatarian view, then I don’t see how you can escape the “work 6 days” part of the command.

    But if it is the case that “work is work,” it makes me wonder if the length of the work week is really an issue at all. With this broad definition of work, how many people (especially if they work 40+ hours a week) do you know who don’t do some kind of work on Saturday (or Sunday for that matter)? I would guess that for every completely lazy weekend couch potato there are hosts of people who work 7 days a week. The Sabbatarian problem seems to be that we all work too much, not too little.


    April 3, 2008 at 1:40 pm

  6. I’m not sure we’re on the same page overall but I do agree with you that many in our society work too much. By that, I mean that either the motivations are errant (status, escape, greed, materialism, anxiety, etc.) or they enjoy the actual work so much that it causes them to neglect their families, relationships, other responsibilities, or worship.

    I reckon that by work, I also mean something that is productive and/ or edifying, not mere activity or ‘busybodiness.’ It’s an interesting issue, certainly. One that is complicated by our current situation. Working six days a week in the days of old was not much of an issue when your very survival was at stake. Without the necessity to grow our own food (for most of us), make our clothes, etc., and with the advent of labour-saving technologies, the formula has changed drastically.

    As for me, my break is over and I must get back to…work. 🙂


    April 3, 2008 at 2:55 pm

  7. I think there is something to Matt’s idea about making sure we work 6 days. There are weekends when I am too lazy on Saturday and don’t get my affairs in order as well as I should and feel frantic and worried on Sunday because there are chores that need to be done.
    Something that I have been learning and working on for about the past year is actually preparing for Sunday. Setting it aside as a holy day is an active pursuit. We shouldn’t just fall into Sunday like I do the couch. When Laura and I “work” hard on Saturday to get all our chores done and house clean and I get my lessons plans worked out for the next week, our Sundays are so much more satisfying.


    April 4, 2008 at 8:08 am

  8. That is a ‘new’ idea that I have had to look at over the past couple of years, as well, Charles. Sunday used to just be ‘The Day After Saturday’ and I did very little to prepare and, like you, would find myself wondering how I was going to get everything done.

    There were a few things that really hit me in this area: 1) Norval’s description of how he prepares himself for worship on Sunday, 2) the Westminster Confession’s and the Larger Catechism’s discussions on preparation for worship, and 3) the PCA’s treatment of the topic in the Book of Church Order. (The BCO was very, VERY, convicting in that area.)


    April 4, 2008 at 8:26 am

  9. so here is my take. For one thing, the Westminster confession is not scripture so I see it as a guide but no more so than any other christian author of merit. The Bible and it’s intents are my guide. That being said, I have a much more open/”gracie” view of things.

    I see your point, and that of Wade for that matter, but like tithing I do not hold to it. I do believe that man should “work” 6 days and rest a seventh. But that is filtered through my view of the dispensation of grace we are under. Since I do believe in abrogation of the old law, I do not hold as firm to the mosaic law and code. I see them as a guide to goo behavior but not absolutes. And just for the record, Saturday is the sabbath of the old testament and Sunday is the 8th day so I do not hold a specific day holy.

    Because of grace I am free from any legal constraints and guide lines, but because of grace I am deeply in debt and owe all to my savor and master. My life, although liberated, is no longer my own. I am free to to not tithe but just give, I am free from not be a sanitarian in the full sense, but because of grace, all my days are now the sabbath.

    I think this is an issue of personal conviction, christian liberty if you will, and not hard rules like not committing adultery. That is where the real discussion is, what “laws” of the old testament are we still bound by? I believe that Christ has set me free and put a new law in my heart, the law of grace and not OT law. This frees me of a sabbath obligation, but my overwhelming debt of love to christ for his works make me want to give more than was required in the old.

    not sure if that help or just muddies it. and 40 hours work weeks are for part-timers 😉


    April 4, 2008 at 8:49 am

  10. Brandon, if the Law has been abolished (‘abrogated’ in your terms) then why are we prohibited from committing adultery? (It’s number 7 on the List.) What about idolatry? murder? lying?, etc.? If the Law is gone, so are they?

    What about Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 5:17, 18: ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.’

    I don’t know how you get around that.

    Or what about His admonition in John 14:15: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.’

    I find it hard to believe that Christ came and whittled down the Decalogue to the Nine Commandments. The civil and ceremonial laws were abolished (read Hebrews for why) but the Moral Law (The Ten) remain. In fact, read Romans—Paul LOVED the Law. Besides, as Paul pointed out, without the law, we know not sin!

    As for the Westminster Standards, I agree that they are not infallible. No one that I know argues that they are. However, just as you wrote down your understanding of Scripture above (which I am sure you will admit is fallible), the Westminster Divines did the same, subject to the Bible as the only rule of faith and practise for the Christian.

    The dichotomy between the law of ‘grace’ and the Law itself baffles me in that, followed to its logical conclusion, it leads to antinomianism. As a quote which Pastor Coleman used in his sermon once says, ‘I find it difficult to believe that Christ died for us so that we can live any way we want to.’

    How, then, are we to know how to live? The Law! (See Matthew 22:36-40)


    April 4, 2008 at 9:25 am

  11. I am not stating my views in order to engage a discussion of them, as that would be a whole different topic. I stated my basis/premises in order to clarify from where I derived my view of the sabbath. If you would like to start a different post on Covenentalism vs. Baptist reformed I would be glad to weigh in. Just so others know, I am not a Presbyterian per say, I am a reformed baptist who attends (and is a member) or a Presbyterian church. Their are a variety of saints, confessions and books written on the subject, more than we could get into here.

    So just for a summation: not every time the word “law” is mention is it referring to the law of moses (an earlier era or dispensation), but the higher law of God. When Christ came He did not do away with the higher law (or the specific times it is copy in the law of moses and others) but to release us from the control of it. He came to refine and clarify, we are now sons of the king and no longer slaves and servants of the old law. It is the same with baptism, not every time it is mention in the NT is it referring to water alone, you must read what the writer meant.

    So the points Matt and I will disagree on: believers baptism vs. child; I am historic premillenial; I still hold to Israel being the chosen people who have not been set aside by God and will be restored; the church is not the new Israel we are the second string but only on earth; I hold to the abolishment of the old laws and now just the law that Christ has set in our hearts through the HS; I see no need for ceremonial anything, hence the abrogation.

    That should stir it up for now. I don’t state these thing to cause strife, but so that people will understand my premises. My view of God and christian living comes from these ideas and the dominate view that God is sovereign in all (I am border line hyper-calvinist, but not).

    Viva la Spurgen!


    April 4, 2008 at 10:00 am

  12. Brandon:
    I’m on my lunch break so I need to hurry–forgive me if my responses seem curt.

    I understand your positions; you’re wrong but I love you anyway! 🙂 However, you did not answer the Scripture passages I referred to regarding the Law. You are correct that ‘law’ means different things at different times in the Bible. However, the context in which I am using it–as well as the passages I referred to–are relating to the Decalogue/ Moral Law. I agree also with you that the civil and ceremonial laws were abolished, having only related to political Isreal at the time and as a shadow of the coming Messiah, respectively.

    Again, I agree that we are not bound by the civil (theonomic) law nor the ceremonial law. However, you must keep in mind that the Moral Law of God has ALWAYS existed (see Romans 1); it was only CODIFIED on Mt. Sinai–NOT created. In fact, the keeping of the Sabbath (first demonstrated by God following Creation) was prescribed and performed BEFORE the Ten Commandments were even written for Moses!–see Exodus 16:5, 21-23.

    As for who is Israel, again I think Paul sheds light in Romans 9:8, Galatians 3:7 and 4:28, etc. Not to mention Jesus’ statement in Matthew 3:9–‘And do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father,” for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.’

    All that is to say that we have gotten off-track on this discussion regarding whether the call to rest on the Sabbath required/ requires also that we work the entirety of the remaining six days of the week. Included in that question is, since recreation in the appropriate amount is not inherently sinful (though sloth is), what does the proper work/ recreation ratio look like in the context of the six-day work week?


    April 4, 2008 at 11:00 am

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