Wednesday, September 23, 2009

No Laundry on Sundays!

This past Sunday afternoon, the boys were playing, Tom was watching football and it seemed like the perfect time to do some laundry. I figured I could throw in a load and then watch football with Tom as I folded the dry clothes. While I was standing in the laundry room transferring the wet clothes to the dryer, God brought to mind several scriptures from Exodus regarding the sabbath, one day of the week that the Isrealites were to rest and worship God.

In Exodus 35:2, God commanded the Israelites, "For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death." Wow! Death seems an overly serious consequence for doing a load of laundry.

God was serious about the Sabbath. Numbers 15 tells the story of a man who was put to death for gathering wood on the Sabbath. In the Old Testement, death was a consequence for other things such as killing another man, kidnapping or enslaving another person, cursing or attacking your parents, having sex with an animal, adultery, incest, homosexual behavior or sacrificing your children to another God. Why did God have the same punishment for working on the Sabbath as these other things?

This is a challenging question, yet I think there is a pretty simple answer. God designed us and created us in His image. Just as my car came with instructions for its care so that it will have a long life, no breakdowns and work most efficiently, God has given us instructions to maintain the optimal performance to accomplish the purpose He designed us for.

Throughout the pages of my car's instruction manual are many bright yellow warning boxes, some are for safety issues and others are for maintenance. For instance, next to the instructions for using the rear view and side view mirrors were warnings that adjusting the mirrors while driving can result in serious injury or death. Similar warnings of death and serious injury were throughout the manual. The manual also recommended a maintenance schedule, a certain grade of gasoline and timing belt replacement around 90,000 miles. Just as my car manufacturer knows how to create optimal performance for my vehicle, God knows taking a regular break (a sabbath) results in our most effective performance. In fact Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." God created the Sabbath to bless us, not to just be a law or a requirement.

God designed us to reach our maximum potential by taking a regular break from work so that we can focus on Him. Last week, The Wall Street Journal had an article titled, "If You Need To Work Better, Maybe Try Working Less." According to the article, "new research suggests some have reached the point where a paradoxical truth applies: To get more done, we need to stop working so much." The article described a four year study implemented at Boston Consulting Group where employees were required to take a block of "predictable time off" during which there was no contact with work, including Blackberries. After initially resisting the time off, the study participants soon found that they communicated better, forged closer relationships, and they did better job at planning ahead and streamlining work, which in some cases resulted in improved client service.

The bottom line for me and my laundry is that I am going to take a break from doing laundry on Sundays. I hope that by setting this boundary the rest of my week will be more effective, I will do a better job planning ahead, and somehow I will even have better relationships with my family (maybe because I will be playing with them rather than folding laundry.) I am going to trust that God will bless my time the other six days of the week if I follow his instructions and take a break from laundry on Sundays.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with all the work that you have do, why don't you try your own experiment of taking a Sabbath and setting apart a time to not work and rest, then see what happens. God promises us if we "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things (that we worry about) will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)


  1. I am glad you sent me the link. I added you to my bloglist on our adoption blog. Keep us updated on the book! Love you- Emily

  2. Hi Friends- I have a confession. When I got home this weekend from a trip to TN, I threw all the dirty laundry in the washing machine. As I was about to go to sleep, I realized that I had done laundry on Sunday, just a couple days after writing this blog! I felt like the disciples when Jesus asked them to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane and they fell asleep. Obviously, I can't do even this little thing on my own, so I pray that God will help me be strong in this area.

    God was merciful and reminded me that the Sabbath started from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday and I didn't do any laundry from Saturday night to Sunday night. I was so saddened by my lack of follow through and lack of intentionality to do what God had asked me to do. I know that I am not under the law, but I so want to have His blessings in my life. He is merciful and catches us when we fall. I hold tight to the promise that when we are weak He is strong.

  3. Oh the sabbath... this is one area where I must say that I struggle in knowing WHAT exactly to do and not do. Obviously living in africa amidst a drought things are a little different. If our landlord pumps water to us on Sunday, we have to wash. We have to wash whenever we get water. If not, it could be a while before we can wash. I will definitely see what I can do about that though. Also working as a nurse in the ER was difficult too. We had to work at least every 5th Sunday. Yes, was making money but I was also serving.

    I read something one time about a pastor who spends that WHOLE day with the Lord whether it be playing with the kids in the yard, reading his bible or whatever (He rarely answered his phone on sundays- esp during his quiet time. What he doesn't do is check his email, watch TV, or spend money. We also have some close friends who do not spend money on Sundays- b/c that makes OTHER people have to work.

    So here is my question: Do you think there are really EXCEPTIONS to the sabbath?
    Great Post!

  4. Thanks for your comments. Here are my thoughts. I definitely think there are exceptions to the Sabbath because Jesus thought there were exceptions to the Sabbath.

    Matthew Chapter 12 is full of exceptions, Jesus' disciples harvested grain and Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. Jesus even comments in Matthew 12:5 that the priests desecrate the day yet are still innocent. I have often wondered if is hypocritical for ministers who work on the Sabbath to hold everyone to the Sabbath standard. Yet somehow you can "desecrate" the day and still be innocent.

    Jesus sets a higher standard than the Law for the Sabbath in Matthew 12:12 when he says, Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." The Sabbath is not only a holy day of rest but a day of action. Jesus sets the example of what we are to do when he says, "I love the Father and I do exactly what the Father has commanded me" (John 14:31.) Jesus' obedience was not limited by the day of the week.

    If God has called you to do/ not do something on the Sabbath, only You are accountable to God for that thing. That's the beauty of a personal relationship. I can imagine if God has called you to not wash on the sabbath and that is the only day you get water, it would stretch your faith in ways that I can hardly imagine.

    For me the Sabbath is like the tithe. Cutting out a little bit of money as holy for God makes the rest of the money more effective. In my experience, the sabbath does the same for time. When I was in graduate school, I kept a deliberate Sabbath from 6:00 Saturday night to 6:00 Sunday. It was hard not to study yet because I took a break, God made the rest of my week so much more productive.