The Sabbath has a bad reputation and one it doesn’t deserve. Most Christians tend to think of this day in terms of what they’re prohibited from doing, dreading what should be a day of peace and fellowship with God.

Genesis 2:2-3 tells us that “...on the seventh day God finished his work which he had made, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it he rested from all his work which God had created and made.” Later, in Leviticus, God established the day as a “day of Sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly.”

Over the years, the Israelites took the Sabbath from being a time of rest and worship to being a set of needlessly complicated, legalistic rules. But when Christ came onto the scene, He changed things. He and His disciples picked grain on the Sabbath in Matthew 12, despite the protestations of the religious leaders of the time. Christ was more focused on doing good during the Sabbath than obeying a set of rules, saying that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” This is a day meant to make life better, not more difficult.

But confusion over the Sabbath persists—while the edicts God laid down still apply, they’re widely misunderstood. To help clear up the nature of this holy day, let’s look at what you shouldn’t do on the Sabbath, as well as a few surprising things you can do.

You shouldn’t go to work.

Avoiding work is the most well-known aspect of the Sabbath for most Christians, but it’s also one of the most misunderstood. Old Testament law forbade working, but Christ showed us that the definition of “work” is a bit different than you might think. Many believe that it’s a sin to do anything on the Sabbath, but Christ’s activity on this day was nearly always activity rather than rest. The important thing to note, however, is that Jesus didn’t go out on the Sabbath for personal, money-making ventures—He went out to do good, to provide for people’s basic needs, and to spread His teachings.

And so, on the Sabbath, it’s not a sin to work if you need the money to survive. It’s not a sin to cook or clean as necessary or to go out and do charitable deeds. The Sabbath is meant to be a day of rest from normal work—the kind of work we often find ourselves in as we scramble for money, power, and prestige. It’s a day, rather, to take a break and focus on the truly important things, like God and family.

You can party for God.

While going to the office for some overtime hours may be a Sabbath no-no, having a party is just fine! We’re not talking about the kind of party where hedonism is the main attraction—this is a celebration of God and fellowship—a day of fun that’s focused on enjoying the people and things that God has surrounded us with. Leviticus 23:3 mentions that the Sabbath is a great time for holy gatherings. This doesn’t have just to mean church—a “holy gathering” could be a great group of friends or family sharing a meal, having a great time, and talking about their spiritual lives.

Remember—when Christ was asked what the most important of God’s commandments were, He replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. The second is this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Love God, love one another, and have a good time doing it. There’s no reason not to have a party on the Sabbath.

You shouldn’t mow the lawn.

For-profit work isn’t the only kind of labor you should be avoiding on the Sabbath. Deuteronomy 5:14 implies that even yard work is out of bounds. While this seems restrictive, think about Christ’s words when He claimed that the Sabbath is for our good. It’s a day of rest and holy reflection. This isn’t truly a restriction—it’s freedom. When we’re constantly busy, it’s easy to lose track of the really important things. We become so focused on the to-do lists that we fail to pay attention to the bigger, more important issues of life.

But the Sabbath allows us the chance to refocus. When we don’t have to worry about mowing the lawn, washing the car, or doing any number of the non-essential tasks we fill our lives with, our minds can wander. We can think about God’s overall plan for our lives. We can connect with family. We can figure out if all of these activities that keep us busy are even making us happy in the first place. Don’t worry about the lawn on the Sabbath. You’ve got bigger things to think about on this special day of the week.

You can laze around the house.

Did you know that the Sabbath is the perfect time to stay in all day and be lazy? Many Christians may recoil at the word “lazy” here, but there’s a big difference between the sin of sloth and the joys of peaceful rest. God knows that we, as limited human beings, need a break, both physically and mentally. It’s all too easy to get into the rut of constantly busy work, never stopping to attend to our own mental, physical, and spiritual health. God is good for us, whether we’re worshiping, praying, or studying scripture—this is why Christ said that the Sabbath was made for us. It’s our chance to relax enough to experience the kind of peace only God can bring.

It’s okay to make that cup of tea or coffee and wrap it up in a blanket on the Sabbath. It’s fine just to sit in the woods and listen to the birds and insects. It’s even acceptable to take a trip to the beach to lay on a towel and just think. Rest is how we quiet the mind and listen to God. Take advantage of the Sabbath—it’s your chance to rest, and through that rest, find spiritual peace.

You shouldn’t hire someone to do the work for you.

The commands regarding the Sabbath don’t just extend to us—they extend to those who we hire, as well. Just because you shouldn’t cut your grass on the Sabbath doesn’t mean you can simply hire someone else to do it for you. In Exodus 20:10, God speaks out against this potential workaround. Why would He command this? Because hiring someone to do the work you’d normally do on the Sabbath—or even hiring someone to perform a service like a massage or manicure—goes against the spirit of the day.

As Christians, we should be ambassadors for God, encouraging others to get to know Him and His church. When we keep the Sabbath holy by refraining from normal work but hiring someone else to do that work for us, we display the kind of hypocrisy that drives people away from God. So give your gardener, pool guy, or masseuse a break and promote peaceful rest on the Sabbath.

You can unplug from the world.

And now we come to what is possibly the very best thing you can do on the Sabbath—you can unplug from the world. This means that you can turn off the news. You can log off of your social media accounts. You can withdraw into the comfort and seclusion of your home. This is important. More than ever, we’re connected to all of the bad news coming in from all over the world. Believe it or not, this affects you, causing stress, anxiety, and depression.

But if you take the Sabbath for what it is—a gift of peace, rest, and spiritual renewal—you’ll find respite from this never-ending flow of negativity. In the end, this is what the Sabbath is all about: disconnecting from your normal life and reconnecting with the grand, overarching grandeur of God. That’s why the Sabbath is a day to which you can look forward.

It’s not about the rules and regulations.

We’ve been talking about things you should and shouldn’t do on the Sabbath, but these warnings can only take you so far. In the end, this day isn’t about legalism. It isn’t about what you can and cannot do—that’s not the best way to think about it.

Instead, consider the Sabbath for what it is—a gift. It’s your chance to enjoy your relationship with Him and to have a day of peace. Treat it this way, and you won’t have to worry about lists of dos and don’ts.

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