MANY of you brethren have written to us here at headquarters with questions regarding what you may or may not do on the Sabbath. In fact, this is one of the most common questions we receive. In a way, this is surprising, since the Bible gives us many clear spiritual principles to go by. Part of the problem is that, often, too many of us want to escape responsibility. We want the ministers to lay down a list of do's and don't's for us so we can proceed to keep the letter of the minister's recommendation rather than having to discern and obey the spirit of God's law.
Exercise Spiritual Judgment
Christ promised that when the Spirit of truth came to us, it would lead us into all truth (John 16:13). Furthermore, Paul warns us that we are not just to obey the letter of Gods law, but the spirit (Romans 7:6). Obviously, to obey the spirit of the law we must have the Spirit of God dwelling in us; and if we have that Spirit, we should be learning to apply the spiritual principles of God's law to our everyday life. If we have not learned this we are in the category of those Paul was writing to in Hebrews 5:12-14: "For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." If we are going to be in God's Kingdom, we must begin now to exercise our senses and to use that spirit to apply the principles of God's spiritual law. Perhaps you feel that YOU do understand God's law, and that you are able to apply its principles to the Sabbath Day. Now is your chance to find out for sure. Before you read any further, go and get yourself a piece of paper and a pencil. Following are a number of questions which have actually been asked of God's ministers. Read the question and then write down your answer. After you have written down your answer, then proceed to read the answer in this article. You may be surprised.
Common Sabbath Questions
1. Is it permissible to cook on the Sabbath Day? Did you write down your answer? No doubt many of you wrote "yes" and some wrote "no." But how many wrote down a scripture as the answer? If you wrote a simple "yes" or "no" as your answer, you have simply given your own opinion. Frankly, our opinion as to what may or may not be done on the Sabbath is worthless. What counts is what God says may be done. The Bible answer to this question is found in the sixteenth chapter of Exodus. In this chapter we have the account of how God very carefully taught the nation of Israel which day the Sabbath was. By a divine miracle, He gave them bread to eat from heaven, and He only gave them enough to eat for each day as it came. They were forbidden to let any of the manna remain until morning (verse 19). However, they were told on the sixth day to gather twice as much bread (verse 22). Then, in verse 23 we have the answer to our question: "And he said unto them, this is that which the Lord hath said, tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: BAKE THAT WHICH YE WILL BAKE TO DAY, AND SEETHE THAT YE WILL SEETHE; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein." Here we have the vitally important principle of the preparation day. Actually. this principle involves much more than just the preparing of food. You should prepare for the Sabbath in any way you can. For example, a farmer can keep the necessary work of feeding and caring for his animals on the Sabbath to a bare minimum by careful preparation on Friday. The housewife, of course, bakes her bread, prepares food ahead, and does her house cleaning on the sixth day. By careful preparation, she can have a clean, neat home on the Sabbath day and have plenty for her family to eat. She can do all this and still have the Sabbath as a day of rest; her only effort will be that: of cooking light meals on the Sabbath — which is permissible — and warming up a few things and serving the food. Even dishwashing can be reduced by preparation and foresight. What a blessing to have a day when we can rest, relax, and get in plenty of extra prayer and Bible study! But unless you prepare for the Sabbath Day, your day will be upset by the temptation to work. Again, let me warn you not to fall into the trap of just trying to "toe the line" to the letter of the law. Learn to apply the spirit of God's law with the help of His holy Spirit which is in you. Now for the next question. This time, try to write down a scripture that you feel would give the answer. Be sure to write it down before you look at the answer.
Working After Sunset on the Sabbath
2. Is it permissible to work just a few minutes on the Sabbath Day in the winter, when the sun sets early, if I will lose my job for not working? More than one scripture may be right in answering this question, but it is answered clearly enough in the twentieth chapter of Exodus. In verse 8, God said: "Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: IN IT THOU SHALT NOT DO ANY WORK, thou... thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates." Do you see the answer? God specifically says that on the seventh day we are not to do any work. He gives us no exceptions. But what if a person does lose his job for failing to work five minutes on the Sabbath Day? The real question is this: To whom do you look for your support? Do you look to your employer, yourself, or to God? If you are trusting in either your employer or yourself to provide you with a living, then you are likely to feel that you should work on the Sabbath Day. On the other hand, if you are putting your whole trust in God rather than in man, you will know that God will provide for all of your needs. In Matthew 19:23, Jesus Christ specifically promised: "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." Can we believe Jesus Christ? If we can, we should have no fear of losing a job in order to obey Him. If we suffer the loss of material possessions in obedience to God, we have His promise that we will receive a tremendous blessing. Now back to Exodus 20. Some are concerned when they read in this chapter that their man servant is not to do any work. They wonder if that refers to such persons as the milkman who delivers milk to your home, or the newsboy, and some even wonder if they should use electricity in their homes on the Sabbath Day since that will cause someone to work at the electric power plant. Let's notice what God actually says. He says that on the Sabbath you are not to do any work: "Thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates." What this is actually saying is that no one over whom you exercise control is to do any work on the Sabbath. Actually, neither the milkman nor the newsboy are your "manservant." You actually have no control over whether they work on the Sabbath or not. The same thing is true of those who work in an electric power plant. They are going to do the same amount of work on the Sabbath Day whether you use your electricity or not, so it is perfectly all right to do so. You should certainly not have a hired hand working for you on the Sabbath. The meaning of this scripture is really quite plain.
Driving to Attend Church
3. How often should I attend Sabbath Services? This is a question of no small importance to those who have to travel some distance to attend services. Again let's not just give an opinion, but let's turn to the Bible to see what God tells us we should do. Turn to the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus. We are generally more familiar with Leviticus 23 as being the chapter where God lists all the Holy Days, but in verse two God tells Moses to speak to the children of Israel concerning the feasts of the Lord which were to be holy convocations. The very first "feast" listed in verse 3 is the Sabbath Day. "Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation..." The key here is the word "convocation." It literally means "a commanded assembly." In other words, we are commanded to assemble before God on the Sabbath Day. It does not say that it is a holy convocation only if it is convenient. If God makes it possible for you to attend, you should be there. This is clarified in Hebrews 10:25: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the mom as ye see the day approaching." Paul here gives us a stern warning not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Furthermore, he tells us that we are actually to be even more diligent in attending services as we see the day approaching. Of course, he is referring to the return of Jesus Christ. Do you see that day approaching? If not, then you must be blind. The prophecies of the Bible are being fulfilled with startling rapidity. Surely we who are God's people can plainly see that the return of our Lord Jesus Christ is very near. Since this is the case, we ought to be all the more eager to receive all the spiritual food we possibly can. It is necessary for our spiritual growth that we be present in every holy convocation we are physically able to attend. It is true that we have the Correspondence Course, The Plain Truth Magazine, The Good News Magazine, and all the booklets to learn from, but there is no substitute for preaching. It is for your good that God commands you to appear before Him. He can actually correct and teach you much better through a minister you can see and hear than He can by means of printed literature. Of course, we have The World Tomorrow Broadcast where we can hear preaching, but Mr. Armstrong cannot preach as plainly over the air as he can in person. The answer to the question then is that we should attend Sabbath services as often as God makes it possible. Of course, if you live a long distance from a local church, then God has not made it possible for you. In some cases, you are able to attend only once or twice a month. As a general rule, this will be determined by your finances. It does cost money to travel. Whatever you do, be honest with God and yourself. Don't kid yourself that you cannot afford to appear before God on HIS Sabbath Day (and especially on the annual Sabbaths) when you can afford it. Ask God to give you wisdom to make a right decision. If you sincerely want to obey Him, He will certainly help you. Remember, it is not just a matter of what seems right to you. With God's Spirit to guide you, you must determine what God wants you to do.
Observing the Annual Sabbaths
4. Are the annual Sabbaths any different regarding what we may or may not do on them? This question is partly answered a little further on in Leviticus 23. In verse 4, God begins to reveal His holy days. In verse 6 He begins to describe the days of unleavened bread. Then in verse 7, concerning the first day of unleavened bread, He says: "Ye shall have an holy convocation: Ye shall do no servile work therein." Now what does He mean by "servile" work? Again, we do not have to just go by our opinion. God makes it very plain in Exodus 12:16. This is where the days of unleavened bread were originally instituted, and in verse 16 God says concerning the first day of unleavened bread: "And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you." Here is another example where the Bible interprets the Bible. The servile work mentioned in Leviticus 23 simply means all work except the work necessary for the preparing of the feast. The only thing that is different about the annual holy days is that we may prepare food on them. However, even then we should make preparations for most things before the holyday begins.
Restaurant Meals on the Sabbath?
5. Is it all right to eat in a restaurant on the Sabbath when you are away from home on a trip? Again, this question may be correctly answered by more than one scripture, but one of the best is found in Matthew 12. In verse one, Matthew describes how Jesus and His disciples were passing through a field of grain on the Sabbath Day and began to pluck the ears of grain and eat them. The Pharisees who saw them rebuked Him, saying that they were breaking the law of the Sabbath Day. Beginning in verse 3, we have Christ's answer: "But He said unto them, have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? or have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?" Verse 5 is of particular importance to God's ministers. With very few exceptions, they have to work on the Sabbath. Many of them preach two sermons on the Sabbath and spend from two to four hours driving from one church to another. Believe me, that is work! Have the ministers then broken the Sabbath? No, like the priests in the temple, they are doing the work of God and are blameless. Often, in the work of a minister, it is necessary for a minister to eat in a restaurant on the Sabbath. Have they sinned? Again, the answer is no for the same reason. But what about you? Should you eat in a restaurant on the Sabbath Day? The classic example of this takes place every year at the Feast of Tabernacles. We must travel from our homes to observe the feast in the place where God has placed His name. During that time, we are living in motels, hotels, and even camping out. For many of us, if we are going to eat at all, we must eat in a restaurant. Since the Sabbath is listed in Leviticus 23 as one of Gods feasts, we would certainly expect to eat on that day. It actually should not normally be a fast day. Furthermore, the people who prepare food in restaurants are going to be working whether or not you are there. As a general rule, it would be better for us to prepare a lunch ahead of time or to order those items on the menu that are prepared ahead of time. This is the case with most of their "specials." They prepare it all ahead of time and it is no extra work for them if we eat in their restaurant. The people in the restaurant are working there whether you eat there or not. And, of course, it involves no work for you. Remember in Mark 2:27 that Christ said that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.
Doing "Good" on the Sabbath
6. Since Christ said it is all right to do good on the Sabbath, is it all right to help my neighbor start her lawn mower on the Sabbath Day, if she can't do it herself? This question can also be answered in the twelfth chapter of Matthew. Beginning in verse 10, we have the example of where the Pharisees asked Christ whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath Day. Christ answered them in verse 11: "And He said unto them, what man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath Day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath Days." Then Christ healed the man. What is the spiritual principle that Christ is giving here? Obviously, He is teaching us that it is good to relieve suffering or to take care of a genuine emergency on the Sabbath. Now back to our question. If your neighbor has a balky lawn mower and wants to cut her lawn on the Sabbath should you help her break the Sabbath by starting her mower for her? In II John 11, we are told that we are a partaker with the evil deeds of a false prophet if we so much as bid him God speed. How much more then would we be partaker in the evil deeds of a Sabbath-breaker if we actually helped him to break God's Sabbath Day? The answer should be obvious. With these things in mind, it should be easy for us to answer many of the other questions that come up along this same line. For example, is it all right to help put out a fire on the Sabbath Day? Certainly. Is it all right to care for the sick on the Sabbath? This is very close to the example that Christ gave us in Matthew 12:12. If we would take care of an animal that was in trouble on the Sabbath, we certainly should be willing to take care of a sick person on the Sabbath — although NOT as an every-Sabbath occurrence for a doctor or registered nurse. This becomes doing your WORK on the Sabbath — not just helping in a personal emergency. Next, we will give you several questions all of which can be answered by the same scripture. This is one you should commit to memory if you do not already know it.
Personal Pleasure on the Sabbath
7. Is it all right to go for a drive on the Sabbath? Is it all right to take a trip if part of it will be on the Sabbath Day? Is it all right to discuss personal business or plan a fishing trip on the Sabbath? You will find the answer to this question, not in the books of the law, but in the prophets. At the end of the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah we find a conditional promise. Beginning with verse 13, we read: "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight..." Do you call the Sabbath a delight? It seems that some of the people in Gods Church have too much time on their hands on the Sabbath. In some cases, we even become anxious for it to be over. There is a very interesting prophecy in Amos 8 regarding those who are anxious for the Sabbath to be over. Beginning in verse 4, God says: "Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, saying, when will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? And the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat... The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, surely I will never forget any of their works." The works of these people included the swallowing up of the needy. However, it also included anxiety to see God's Sabbath over so they could be busy about their own business. Read again God's solemn warning to them: "Surely I will Never forget any of their works." When we really learn to keep God's Sabbath in the way He intended, it is red delight! Maybe one of the reasons we do not enjoy the Sabbath any more than we do is because we are not working hard enough during the week. If a person is really working hard, and has a full life, it is a relief to have the Sabbath come — a day when we are forced to rest. Continuing in Isaiah 58:13: "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath ... and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words." On God's Sabbath Day we should not be trying to go our own ways or seek our own pleasure. In fact, we should not even speak our own words. How does that answer our questions? Is it all right to go for a drive on the Sabbath? If you are seeking your own pleasure it is not all right. On the other hand, if you are driving to appear before God on His Sabbath Day, it is all right. Is it all right to discuss your personal business or plan a fishing trip on the Sabbath Day? No, the Sabbath is a day when we should not speak our own words, but Gods. It is a day to talk primarily about the Bible, the soon-coming Kingdom of God, and principles relating to God's way of life. Of course, questions regarding whether or not we should attend movies, watch television, play cards, etc., on the Sabbath are quite easy to answer after reading this scripture, aren't they? Reading on in Isaiah 58:14, we read God's promise to those who do turn away their foot from the Sabbath; who do learn to rejoice in the Sabbath, and call it a real delight. "Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." If you are careless in observing the Sabbath, you are robbing yourself. We do not injure God by our sins; we only hurt ourselves. Let us be diligent, brethren, and rejoice in God's Sabbath!