Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mercy, Justice, the Fourth Commandment and the Service Economy

In which he asks, "Has Sunday morning become a white-collar affair?"

I am struck, in our 24-7 world, at how difficult it would be to bring those who make their living in the service economy into the life of the church. The decline of the concept of a day of rest in our society and among the people of God has created a problem I hear precious few Christians addressing, namely, when is the person who makes his living at Home Depot or Burlington Coat Factory allowed the luxury of a day of rest and worship?

I remember when we were living in VA, an ancient blue law, never enforced, being mocked and ridiculed. The law guaranteed the right of the laborer not to labor on Sunday. In all the rights guaranteed to workers in this day and age, this one is not, and I wonder why the church remains largely silent on it.

We often treat the Fourth Commandment as a private affair: we are not to work, but to rest and worship. It is a gift, not a burden. But, the Fourth Commandment is largely addressed not to the individual, but the one who has others in his employ. It is not just that he is to rest, but his servants, his animals (those whose labor he owns) and his guests.

So, let's say the church does its job and shares the gospel with those in the service economy. When can we incorporate them into worship, into the life of faith? When do they get their day of rest? It is a rather callous response from the church to tell them to find another job --most jobs in the service economy do not come with weekends.

I suggest we do three things. First, perhaps churches need to band together to offer other opportunities to worship than the Lord's Day. This is not making the Lord's Day optional. It is a provision to thos whose schedule is not their own, just as the Christian slaves used to gather after sundown, when their workday was done. It is accomodating a society that has abandoned a day of rest.

Second, we need to speak prophetically to the culture. Christian business owners used to close on Sunday: Truett Cathy is the one remaining example, JC Penney and Sam Walton in not-too-distant memory. Christian workers deserve the freedom to observe their day of rest and worship. In a world in which every accomodation is made to every sort of religious practice and scruple, the First Day observance, joining in the corporate life, worship, and fellowship of the people of God is fundamental to Christian community.

Third, we need to teach on the Lord's Day. We need to present it not primarily as a list of don'ts. It is for man, not man for it. It is for rest, and for worship. Yes, there are things we must do, and things we ought not. But, primarily, it is a day for families to gather in the Family, around the altar of God, call on his name and hear his voice. We have let this great gift be trampled upon by society, and are the poorer for it.

Part of justice for those who are less in command of the culture is just that the church cry out for them to be given a regular Christian Sabbath. Remember the soul of the person who waits on your table next Sunday....


  1. Amen!!! Amen!!!! Preach it, brother!!! When we started "stretching our obedience" to honor the Lord's Day, we eventually also made a commitment to not "entertain" or provide luxury for ourselves at the expense of others, who also deserve a day off to rest and worship! We don't go to the pool, we don't go out to eat, we don't shop or watch movies at the theater. All those people need to have the blessing of a Sabbath, and we are all responsible to promote a mindset that honors everyone's Sabbath!

  2. Amen, brother. When I was in seminary, I remember meeting a lady at Wednesday night supper who I never saw on Sunday morning. She said that she worked at the zoo, taking care of the animals. This is, of course, a work of necessity. The problem was that because she was the newest employee, she had to work every Sunday. The other employees could have shared the burden, but chose not to. I suppose that one way of helping others keep Sabbath would be for us to sacrifice some of our leisure so they could have some.

  3. Just this past Sunday, the preacher asked, "Is Sunday just another Saturday, for you, interrupted by 2 hours of Church?" He pressed that when God is our delight, we'll then delight in God's Day with Him.


  4. When I was in High School I worked at Wendys. I asked the manager once, "Do we make any money on Sundays?" He said, "We might break even on a good day. The only reason we're open is to the brand active and to keep customers from going some place else." He also quoted a Chik-Fil-A study that showed that Sunday business was not profitable - even costly to most businesses.