Monday, August 8, 2011

On Mowing My Lawn on Sunday

We arrived home on Sunday from our two-week vacation to find that our house was still in one piece but our yard was a mess. I expected this. A young man had done a nice job cutting the grass about a week ago, but at this time of year in south Georgia the grass grows very quickly.

I had a few options. I could let the grass grown until next weekend. I could cut it sometime this week. I could cut it on Sunday. The first option was a no-go because the yard would have looked putrid by Saturday. The second option was almost an impossibility because I'll be working all week in hot temperatures; by the time I get home I'll be too tired to cut grass. Option three seemed like the only option.

In light of the situation, I did something earthshaking: I cut my grass. On Sunday.

I'm having a bit of fun with this mainly at my own expense. Not too long ago I would not have mowed the lawn because I thought I was violating the Sabbath. I went so far as to look disgustedly at others who cut their grass on the first day of the week. In my head I'd think, "They treat Sunday just like Saturday." Many of them were probably lost people, so for me to think this about them at all was absurd.

I have no plans to start cutting my grass on Sundays - at least not on a routine basis. Normally on Sundays we gather with our church family, hang out together as a family, and rest. In that sense, we're generally treating Sunday as a sort of Sabbath. However, we're definitely not treating it like a strict O.T. Sabbath (not that many Christians keep it from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown anyway, but I digress).

As I study scripture, I see the Sabbath as a gift from God to man. We read this in Mark:

"And he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.'" Mark 2:27-28

By Jesus' time the religious leaders of the day had turned the Sabbath into a burden - the exact opposite of what it was intended to be. Jesus, as always, set them straight.

Sadly, some well-intentioned Christians still treat Sunday as if it is an O.T. type of Sabbath. I can still remember an angry old man yelling at me and my friends for playing baseball on Sunday afternoons on a local field; we were about eleven years old at the time and had been "in church" earlier in the day. That is a bit of an extreme example no doubt. Many very nice followers of Jesus still see Sunday as the Sabbath.

Interestingly, Sunday was simply not the Sabbath. It's just a day when some Christians met together. They may have done this because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday. Despite this, we are never taught in the New Testament to keep the Sabbath or think of Sunday that way.

We see in the book of Hebrews in particular that Jesus Christ is our Sabbath rest. He has fulfilled any requirements from the O.T. Our rest is in Him. For example:

"So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his." Hebrews 4:9-10

We enter God's rest when we become Christ's.

The above two verses are interesting because they mention God resting from his works. The Sabbath, then, extends all the way back to creation and not simply to Sinai. Because of this, the concept of a Sabbath seems to have lasting importance. For this reason alone, the idea of taking a weekly rest of sorts appears wise. I know I always feel better after some rest on Sunday.

However, I don't have to rest on Sunday. Neither do you. Jesus is our rest. Just because we may gather with other believers on Sundays, this doesn't mean we are limited in our activities this day.

This can certainly be a thorny/sticky issue for Christians. How should we handle it? Paul helps us a great deal with this. In Colossians 2:16-17 the apostle writes, "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." (emphasis mine)

Paul makes it clear that his list, including the Sabbath, is a list of shadows. Jesus Christ is the reality. He has fulfilled the requirements for us to have eternal rest in Him.

In light of this, what should we do on Sundays? We should do whatever we believe the Holy Spirit is leading us to do. It's as simple as that. Some Sundays we might rest. On others we might mow the lawn. At other times the Spirit may tell us to serve others by cutting their grass.

In the end the Sabbath is a gift. It is ultimately Christ. We have rest in Him.

So I mowed my lawn on Sunday and despite what I used to believe, it really is O.K.

12 comments:

James said...

The Sabbath is Saturday. So if you are going to "honor" it. That's the day you should do it.

Cutting grass on Sunday is okay...but Saturday is not.

So you're safe!

Aussie John said...

Eric,

You made me chuckle as I read your article.

"Sadly, some well-intentioned Christians still treat Sunday as if it is an OT type of Sabbath."

That comment makes me so sad as I realize their ignorance of our Lord Jesus actually being our Sabbath. I remember so well the sense of "Eureka" when I fully understood what that means.

The Sabbath question is like the final number in a combination lock which a prisoner has not been able to find.

Eric said...

James,

Whew! I'm glad I got away with it.

Eric said...

John,

The bible certainly is a dangerous book. When we read what it really says instead of what we may have been taught through tradition, something amazing happens.

Scott said...

The question is did you pick up any sticks while you were cutting the grass? Numbers 15:32–36. I always wondered why they were allowed to pick up the stones but he was put to death for picking up the sticks.
Brother Scott ><>

Eric said...

Scott,

I think I got away with it. No one found me picking up sticks while I was, in fact, picking up sticks.

I wonder about the pine cones. Hmmm.

Jim said...

This is an interesting take on an old problem. If we work Monday through Friday and our 'Sabbath' is on Saturday, when do we mow the lawn? Sunday? If our Sabbath is Sunday, then can we mow the lawn on Saturday?

Here is the other side of the coin. We believe the Ten Commandments are infallible. If we don't, then we are denying the whole of scripture. Yes, Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." But, He said that because the Pharisees had misinterpreted the Law! We know that.

But, the scripture is clear. We are not supposed to work nor have any of our servants do any work. Was mowing the lawn work? That is for you to decide.

Also, when we go out to eat on Sunday, are we forcing our servants to work to serve us? Are we being duplicitous to say we are being good Christians yet we are not following the Ten Commandments? Which commandment do we just decide to not accept and fully follow?

Just think about it ...

Eric said...

Jim,

Thank you for commenting on this blog. I appreciate the input.

Please let me ask you a few questions:

1. Why in the book of Hebrews is salvation in Christ referred to as our Sabbath?

2. Why aren't the NT Christians instructed to keep the Sabbath?

3. Do you keep the Sabbath from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown?

Thanks.

Steve Scott said...

Eric,

In the book of Acts, there are 8 different references to the seventh day as being the Sabbath, and what the apostles did on that day (13:14, 27, 42, 44, 15:21, 16:13, 17:2 and 18:4). The church and its first day meeting had already been well established by the apostles.

Now, why, if Sunday were the "Christian" or "New Testament" Sabbath, does THE BIBLE ITSELF still recognize the seventh day as the Sabbath after the Sabbath had already supposedly changed to Sunday?

Eric said...

Steve,

That is an excellent question that I've never heard a good answer to. Folks just don't know their bibles and/or they are stuck in tradition. Scripture is clear on this issue. There really shouldn't even be arguments about it.

rodrigo said...

Eric,
I know I'm a little late in responding to this but according to the Bible Almanac p.541--
The New Testament gives no evidence that the early church observed any holy days, other than holding its worship on the first day of the week. The Christians did not observe Sunday as a day of rest until the fourth century A. D., when Emperor Constantine designated Sunday as a holy day for the entire Roman Empire. The early Christians did not confuse Sunday with the Jewish Sabbath, and they made no attempt to apply Sabbath legislation to Sunday.

From my readings I also understand that the Roman empire did not have weekends in the way we do but rather holidays that could be any day where they didn't work-not a regular every seventh day. Part of the reason Paul admonished the people who came early to the Lord's Supper presumably on Sunday to celebrate the resurrection and ate all the food was because the people who came late were the poor people who would have been slaves rather than freemen and would not have had the freedom to leave their work early on Sunday.

So what do we do with the 10 commandments then when we know that the early church broke at least one of them on a regular basis. I think we have to recognize that we are not under any of them. They are part of the law and the old covenant. We are not under law but under the Spirit. Now of course alot of the commandments we would not break because love and the Spirit would not guide us in that direction. But we certainly are not bound to them because they are the Ten Commandments. See Classic Christianity by Bob George

Eric said...

Rod,

Thanks for adding to the conversation. I agree completely. I find it sad how many people still feel bound to the OT law. All we need is Christ. His teachings and the leading of the Spirit each day are sufficient.