The only thing more sacred than our steeples, are our stadiums. Actually, we will skip Church for just about any old reason, but sports are our favorite.
This never used to bother me; it didn’t bother my parents; it didn’t even bother my preacher. If I missed a Sunday or two, he might inquire where I was, but when told him that I had a sports competition, he’d smile approvingly and ask how it went. So long as I wasn’t out shopping for a new Church or forgetting to tithe, it seemed there was no harm ignoring the Sabbath from time to time.
Things began to change when I started teaching Sunday school. Being the teacher forced me to make the Lord’s day the priority each week, whether I wanted to or not. It was then that I finally saw the spiritual necessity of the Sabbath.
It is so easy to get lost in life’s endless details. God knew this from the beginning, and that is why He set apart the final day of Creation, making it a holy day of rest and reflection. God didn’t need to rest or reflect, but we do.
Jesus says, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). So, when you skip the Lord’s Day, you aren’t just blowing God off; you are starving yourself spiritually. When we allow our children to skip the Sabbath, we are starving them as well.
Children from good Christian families are disappearing for several months at a time during certain sport seasons. It isn’t healthy; our youth’s spiritual malnutrition is leading to spiritual death. Roughly a third of Americans under 30 are now atheist or agnostic.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Church will continue to lose this war, precisely because Christians value the company of cheering fans, to the fellowship of Communion. The only question is whether or not your children will be among those lost.
Keeping the Sabbath
Now, please don’t think that I am suggesting bringing your kids to Church is a spiritual cure-all. It isn’t even close. But I will say, that in the few years that I was a Christian Education Director, I could see a huge difference between the spiritual maturity of Sabbath-keeping kids versus Sabbath-breaking kids.
It seems that in our desire to not be “legalistic” like the Pharisees, we’ve allowed ourselves to pick and choose which of God’s laws we are willing to obey. And that is just what the Sabbath is, God’s law.
Now someone is going to say that the Sabbath is Old Testament Law and we no longer have to obey it. Really, then why did the early Church feel the need to honor the Sabbath? Why did God set apart the Sabbath at Creation, if he only intended ancient Hebrews to honor it? And are we to disregard the entire Ten Commandments, or just the Sabbath?
These were all questions I had to ask myself. Even though I knew the answers, it took my family several years to truly fall into the habit of honoring the Lord’s Day above all else. And to be honest, we still fail from time to time. However, honoring the Sabbath has been a life changing experience.
Tips for Keeping the Sabbath with Kids
If you would like to do a better job obeying the 4th Commandment, here are some tips and suggestions that really helped our family.
1. A Full Day: The Sabbath was meant to be a full day of rest and reflect. It wasn’t something you squeezed in before work, or after the football game. We decided to start our Sabbath at 12 A.M. Sunday morning and end it 11:59 P.M. Sunday night.
2. No Work: We have decided not to conduct any business on the Sabbath, (if we can help). This involves a lot of planning. Since we have a home business, it is really tempting to do catch up work on the Sabbath.
Eventually we managed to put all our business dealing, even urgent ones, aside until Monday. But then we did something even worse.
My wife and I began to subconsciously save regular housework, like laundry and mowing the lawn for Sunday. This allowed us to give more time to the business during the workweek, and then catch up on the housework on the Lord’s Day. This might have been even more disrespectful to God, because now instead of letting our important business ruin our Sabbath, we were letting petty chores consume the day.
So, the new rule is that we do NO work, period, on the Sabbath, except cooking and cleaning up after ourselves (dishes, sweeping after meals, cooking). This has made it a true day of rest.
Now, if you work for a company that requires you to work on Sunday, this may not be as easy. I believe that professions that involve Emergency Care (Nurses, Doctors, Police, Soldiers) are probably fine working.
If you don’t work in those fields and your employer won’t give you the Sabbath off, then you might try finding another job that will. If no other jobs are available, then you have to provide for your family. I believe the Sabbath-breaking will then fall at your employers feet, not your own.
Also, I do believe that work for the Church and mission work is permissible on Sunday. Jesus himself implied that it was permissible to do good on the Sabbath. So, urgent charitable work is fine.
3. No Buying: We do all that we can not to buy anything on Sunday. We do not want to support businesses that have employees breaking the Sabbath. We do shop at those businesses, but not on Sundays.
4: Family Time: Keeping our family together is something that we feel is important on Sunday. We don’t usually allow our children to go to friends on the Sabbath.
5: Activities: On Sunday, we try to keep the focus on God in all of our activities. We have our kids read the Bible or Christian books. If they watch a movie, it has to be a Bible show. Sometimes we take the time to make cards for a orphan that we support, or encouraging cards for friends and family members. They are lots of possibilities, we just try to keep it Christ-centered.
6: No Sports: We do not play or watch (organised) sports on Sunday. I am not saying that you can’t; I’m just saying we don’t. Remember we try to keep our activities God-centered. Since our kids are young (our oldest is 7), this isn’t too hard. I realize as they get older the pressure to compromise will be intense, but the greater the sacrifice the greater the meaningfulness.
7: Special Day: Janine and I do what we can to make Sunday a special day. We usually cook a special breakfast and wear our best clothing the entire day (when it makes sense to). We don’t want our children dreading the Lord’s Day; we want them to look forward to it.
8: No Substitutes: The Sabbath is about making God our chief priority in life, so it kind of defeats the purpose when something comes up and we “reschedule” our Sabbath. God’s time shouldn’t get bumped to another time, or another day, because we have a soccer game to attend. God is the priority, period.
There are hundreds of tempting ways to get around the Sabbath. You can do work that you call “relaxing.” You can point to God when you score a touchdown, and pretend that you are breaking His commandment, for His sake. You can squeeze in a quick Bible reading at halftime, and pretend it is the same as communing in Church with other believers.
There are many ways to “cheat” yourself out of your Sabbath, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Breaking the Sabbath will hurt you more than it hurts God.
And if you won’t keep the Sabbath for your spiritual well-being, do it for your children’s. They need to see your faith and commitment. The world will offer them a million God-substitutes. Show them, by your example, that nothing can replace God!