Keeping Sabbath

"Sabbath keeping is not about taking a day off but about
being recalled to our knowledge of and gratitude for God's activity in creating
the world, giving liberty to captives, and overcoming the powers of death."

— Dorothy C. Bass

"I'm so busy... I just don't have enough time to complete all my work." Do you need a break, but doubt you have time for it? What about those who don't have sufficient work to sustain themselves? The practice of keeping Sabbath helps us to resist the tyranny of too much or too little work.

Sabbath in the Bible
The Exodus (20:8-11) commandment to "remember" the Sabbath is grounded in the story of creation. Since we are created in God's image, what behavioral cues do we take from what we see of God in this story?

In Deuteronomy (5:12-15) the commandment to "observe" the Sabbath sees to it that no one, not even animals, will work without respite. How do people freed from slavery celebrate their liberation? What kinds of justice do they wish for others? How might Sabbath-keeping help us resist various forms of enslavement today, for ourselves and for others?

The Sabbath in Judaism
Shabbat - the Jewish Sabbath - is the heart of Judaism. In observant Jewish homes, Shabbat begins each Friday night at sundown as a woman lights the Sabbath candles. Until the following sundown, all activities associated with work or commerce are prohibited.

How does this Sabbath requirement of no work or commerce honor God and respect human needs? What are good re-creative activities to do on the Sabbath (e.g., worship, play, take a walk, rest, read, spend time with loved ones)?

Can Christians Keep Sabbath?
In what ways did Jesus extend the meaning of Sabbath by his teaching and ministry? What did Jesus mean by proclaiming, "It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:12)? When Constantine declared Christianity the state religion (321 C.E.), Sunday was established as the day for both rest and worship. Is Sunday the day of the week you experience Sabbath? If not, when do you and your household observe Sabbath?

Though we may yearn for Sabbath rest, what obstacles keep us from it? Pressures to work and spend? Organized sports? The fact that Sundays are no longer protected by custom and law? Trying to overcome a reputation of Sabbath-keeping as sapping joy from the day?

Unwrapping the Gift of Sabbath Keeping
How might ceasing from work one day a week reshape your work and attitudes on the other six? What is the advantage of a pattern of Sabbath time, as opposed to snatching odd moments or hours of Sabbath time? What are the advantages to keeping Sabbath on Sunday? Who might not be able to keep Sabbath on Sunday? How might we enable them to keep Sabbath another time?

How is Sabbath-keeping a way to honor the generosity of our Maker? How does our society's Sabbath-keeping (or lack thereof) express our relation to the created world? What changes in society would make it easier to keep Sabbath? In what ways can members of a worshiping community help one another step off the treadmill of work-and-spend and into the circle of glad gratitude for the gifts of God?

back to top


The Pharisees said to Jesus, "Look, why are your disciples doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" Then he said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.".

— Mark 2:24, 27-28

Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

— Deuteronomy 5:15

© 2006-2011 The Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith