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.

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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.


Michael Kohen


Michael Kohen commented…

''For most people, Sabbath is celebrated on Sunday.''

yep, the broad road to destruction.

you can't change the sabbath to any day you want it to be.

daniel 7:25 it is the anti-messiah that changes the times and laws

who do you follow?

Talberts Adesh


Talberts Adesh replied to Michael Kohen's comment

Correct. ..that's true. God blessed only one day. . Manna wouldn't fall on only one day. ..we can't change it

Bill-Donna Davis


Bill-Donna Davis commented…

The truth is, that will rest is a good principle to have in our lives, the church is not commanded to follow the Sabbath. Note the whole context (emph. mine):

Ex 31: 17 "It will be a sign BETWEEN ME AND THE ISRAELITES, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed."

The church is not under law--even the Ten Commandments, but each of the other nine are indeed repeated in the Epistles as being part of God's will for Christians... but not the Sabbath. In fact, in Col 2:16 Paul explicitly warns AGAINST those who judge us for not keep the Sabbath.

it's also a very man-centered interpretation to say that the purpose of the Jewish Sabbath was to give people rest to make them healthy and stress-free.

Talberts Adesh


Talberts Adesh replied to Bill-Donna Davis's comment

Thanks for the response but sabbath was instituted at creation Genesis 2:2. By then there were no Israelites. That's why in the ten commandments God says Remember the Sabbath day because they already plainly knew about it. Sabbath is for all mankind. Isaiah 56:6 even strangers that would later join in with the Israelites through the atonement of Christ were to keep it.

Talberts Adesh


Talberts Adesh commented…

Thanks for the insightful discourse on the Sabbath. I agree with you that it is the most forgotten commandment yet it begins with the word Remember. However God is very categorical that the Sabbath can only be the Seventh Day and not any other day of our choice and convenience Genesis 2:2 ,Exodus 20: 8-11. When you say that for most Christians it's Sunday I beg you to give me a single bible verse that authorizes the first day of the week to be a sabbath. The argument by protestants that the resurrection of Jesus makes Sunday a sabbath has been debunked by the Catholic Church who state that Sunday is a mark of their authority over the bible ( Google the article "ROMES CHALLENGE Pdf version").if we are to keep the Sabbath then we must keep it God's way not our way.

Jeff Prock


Jeff Prock commented…

There is no moral vs ceremonial law. We are free from the law all 613. Read Luther and for that matter the book of Galations. Does this author keep the moral law. No, so they are guilty of all the law. Sentence death. Moral law believers how is the Sabbath moral. How is not worshipping a idol moral.if dishonor your mother or father you must be put to death, if we are under the moral law. The author has zero understanding of the gospel

Chantilly Lovelace


Chantilly Lovelace commented…

Not even Jews obey all 613 laws because not all laws apply to all Jews. There are laws specific to the Temple, which cannot be observed because there is no Temple to observe them at. Many of the priestly laws fall under this class. There are laws specific for women, not men and vice versa. Those who aren't Jews have instructions to follow, they are a bit more difficult to find, mostly they are found by reading what the nations are punished for. A day of rest and worship is good for all; the Sabbath being rest on the 7th day is a covenantal and cultural marker for Jews, Messianic or not, and while non-Jews are permitted (and even invited) to participate it, it is not something non-Jews keep (as in teach and pass to the next generation)

Jesus, in Matthew, said he came to fulfill, not abolish the Torah (which translates better as instruction, not law). The grace vs law argument is a false and needless one. We are ALL obliged to follow the instructions God laid down--the instructions that pertain to our gender and position. Jesus came to show what fulfilling Torah looked like and his sacrifice brought to the heavenly altar, his own blood, means that we can BE what we cannot DO.

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