Thursday, April 16, 2009

How Can Parents of Young Children Observe a Day of Rest?

One biblical command I still haven’t quite figured out how to follow is the Sabbath, or day of rest. I know some believe the Sabbath is an Old Testament ideal abolished by Christ, but it seems to me that we still do need a day of rest – if God rested at Creation and Jesus regularly withdrew for long periods of rest, why shouldn’t we? Plus, Christ told us that the Sabbath was made for us (Mark 2:27), so it must benefit us somehow.

But some jobs just don’t allow for time off – farming, for instance. And parenting young children. Really, how can I go an entire day without feeding my children, changing diapers, preventing them from hurting each other or burning down the house, cleaning up major messes, making sure the kids get adequate sleep, teaching them, and helping them keep busy? It’s just not possible to avoid working when parenting is your work.

I asked this question once during a class at church when we were discussing observation of the Sabbath, and the teacher’s response was that these actions are not my work but my “daily responsibilities.” I don’t buy it – how can the most difficult job I’ve ever had not be work?

So, I’d love to know: how do you observe a day of rest, especially if your job is one that doesn’t allow for time off?


  1. I don't think anyone can determine what is exactly meant by not working on the Sabbath. I understand that the orthodox jews have very strict guidelines. They can't turn on and off lights, but maybe they are allowed to change baby diapers.
    There is a book that our bible study group is reading called 'Making Sunday Special' by Karen Mains. According to the book, you are supposed to start preparing for Sunday early in the week, like on Wednesday. You make preparation leading up to Sunday to help there not be as much to do once sabbath arrives, like cooking meals ahead of time, so you can just pop them in the oven. The book hasn't helped me much, but might help you. :)

  2. Well, in regards to resting on the job of parenting....I don't think that God wants us to think of parenting as a job - it is not suppose to be a burden to us. We are suppose to enjoy our children. They are suppose to be a blessing in our lives; not a burden. To me, the definition of a "job" is a burden. I mean, you need money to live in this world....but a "job" outside of the house - whether it's considered a career, or just a job takes away from family time. In my opinion God's interpretation of the Sabbath day is just that he wants us to spend quality time with the ones who are the closest to us. Doesn't matter anymore if it's Sunday, Monday, or any other day. What matters is that you put your family on the pedastool and make them #1 in your life - God wants us to build our relationships into good ones with our families.

  3. NOT that parenting is not hard work...I just think God wants us to appreciate all the work He put into us as well....

  4. I agree that our children should be a joy to us, but I disagree that a job has to be a burden. Many people love the work they do; does that mean that an artist or CEO or garbage collector should never take time off just because he really loves what he does?

    I also agree with you that we should have good relationships with our families, but our family should not be #1 -- that's God's place.

  5. No, I think you misunderstood - when I say "career" that means people who consider their jobs to be more than a job - someone who loves their job. But, what I am saying, is that even if they love what they do - it's just a job. People can end up ruining their relationships if they love their job by choosing job or career over family, for whatever reasons. That's why God wanted us to observe the Sabbath day. To make sure we were worshipping Him, and than improving our relationships with our families. But, in today's reality, does that need to be done on Sunday? Are you really placing God first, if you only worship and pray on Sunday? Are you in a good relationship standing with your family if you only put them 2nd to God one day a week (by the way, I knew you would call me out on that. :0) By #1 I meant of the Earth)? What about people who have to work at a job or career on Sundays (hospitals never close, some people travel)? Are they sinning even though they attend worship during the week, read their Bibles and pray every day and fit in their family time/rest time when they can?

    Some people would love to be able to stay home all the time (whether they love their job or not) with their children, but can't due to the circumstances of life. So, in this world, being able to stay home with your children is a true privilege that God has granted. I'm not saying it's easy, but, in my opinion, God doesn't look at raising children as a job or career. He looks at it as building a relationship, one that you can simply not take a break from. When you can stay home and be with your children all the time - you are building, perhaps, one of the strongest relationships that parents can have with their children. The Bible says that God rested on the 7th day, but does that mean that God was unavailable to his creation for that entire day?

  6. Maybe I did misunderstand, because I agree with you on all of those thoughts!

  7. I do think there is wisdom to some sort of a sabbath. I also agree that child-rearing is work, if not a "job". There is work that can't be avoided any day, but with forethought and purposeful & deliberate planning, even that work can be minimized or simplified. Some ideas that jump to mind are planning a simple crockpot meal, or leftovers...something that doesn't require a lot of effort, and doing the prep work in advance. Another idea is to refrain from doing chores (laundry, heavy cleaning,...). One pastor we had encouraged us to get out and enjoy God's creation, take a walk in the woods, or have a picnic in the park. Heidi's idea about thinking ahead is great. One key to taking a day off is that you must work diligently the other 6 days to get the work done. Another idea that has worked for us in the past is to observe a sundown to sundown sabbath (like the Jews). We started with a relaxing Saturday evening, and then Sunday evening was spent "working" to prepare for the week. This worked out better for me than coming down to a sink full of dishes on Monday morning because I had "rested" the day before. It's not going to look the same for everyone. For some, yard work is relaxing, for others, it's work. It's important to walk and grace!

  8. To some extent, the definition of rest is subjective. Some see hiking 10 miles as work, but if it is done with family and is something everyone finds enjoyable and refereshing, then it could be considered rest.
    Also, many in this modern world make a living based on mental work (computer programmers come to mind). So is rest to only be physical or should an ideal rest also include minimal mental activity?
    If all else fails, the approach that has become commonly accepted could be employed: sedatives, but just in a higher dose on Sundays.

  9. A close look at the biblical passages on the Sabbath reveals that there are certain aspects of farming that they did do and others that they didn't. They wouldn't do any planting or harvesting on the Sabbath, but they would feed their animals, and they would rescue animals if they fell in a ditch. Similarly, for household living they wouldn't gather food on the Sabbath, and they wouldn't do something to bring in income to provide for food if it wasn't something that had to be done every day, but in the ancient world they couldn't prepare a meal and then put it in the fridge to be microwaved the next day, so they prepared food on the Sabbath.

    The theological principle behind the Sabbath is less rest and more completion and wholeness or peace with God. In Christ we enter God's rest, meaning we are complete and not in need of further work to be in God's family. It doesn't mean we're perfected yet, but of course we're not done yet. The Sabbath principle is to recognize what is complete in Christ and to rest in that. In this sense all time since Christ is Sabbath time. It's not that the work week has expanded to include the seventh day. It's that the Sabbath has expanded to include the rest of the week, the same way the holiness of the temple has expanded to include all believers as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

    Now there is a secondary principle of observing regular rest, but do we have to do that in the 6-on 1-off pattern of the Sabbath ritual in the Mosaic covenant? I'm not sure why we would. The opponents Paul is dealing with in both Galatians and Colossians are too tied up with observing special days and seeing them as special, and Romans 14 and Philippians 3 allow for the weaker Christians to maintain such customs if they can't bring themselves to be mature enough to recognize the principles in other ways, but Paul's preference is for them to mature and apply the principles in other ways when circumstances warrant it.

    I'd be inclined to say that finding time to rest from certain daily responsibilities is indeed an application of the secondary Sabbath principle of rest. But it doesn't have to be a straight 24-hour period.


Thanks for your comments! Agree or disagree, but please comment respectfully.