How do you spend your Sunday?
Before you tense up and suspect this is a post to make you feel guilty for slipping in church attendance or for working on Sunday, please keep reading. I have no intention of making you feel guilty. In fact, I read something in Matthew 12 recently that shows how any of us can set aside Sunday for worship of God, no matter what your life circumstances might be.
Jesus was in persistent hot water with the Jewish leaders. The most common sticking point with the Pharisees was how Jesus and his followers observed the Sabbath. The Old Testament specified the seventh day as a day of rest, a day to honor the God of creation who had made the universe in six days. But the Jews of Jesus’ day felt the need to concoct all kinds of regulations to define “rest” so they had palatable proof of whether any one person was properly observing Sabbath. And, like the bureaucrats that they were, they fashioned loopholes in the law that allowed them to do what they wanted to do but gave them leverage to use the law as a battering ram over those they wanted to control.
Or tried to control. Like Jesus.
One Sabbath day, Jesus entered the synagogue. The Jewish leaders had planted a man with a withered hand in the congregation. They knew what Jesus would do—heal the guy. They hoped He would. And they had their scroll of regulations in hand, ready to pounce on Jesus for working on the Sabbath.
I love Jesus’ comeback. I wish I was as quick on comebacks. Wouldn’t they rescue a sheep that had fallen in a well on a Sabbath, he asked them. Isn’t a human being more important than an animal?
Here’s the line that jumped out at me:
“Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”Matthew 12:12
A long-running hot topic among Christians has been the idea of Sabbath rest. In our hectic high paced culture, carving out a day of rest and restoration seems alluring and necessary, but nearly impossible. For many years, I felt resentment and guilt each Sunday. Sunday did NOT feel like a day of rest for those in ministry. On my worst days, I would say Jesus wrote that command to men, not to women because we were expected to come from church to fix Sunday dinner. But over the years, I learned how I could make even the busiest of Sundays more restful. See Intentional Rest: Making Sabbath Rest Part of Your Routine.
I wish I had caught this verse about doing good years ago.
If I’d made the connection between Sabbath worship and doing good, maybe it would have validated our ministry on Sundays. But I’m a work in progress like anyone else. Maybe I was evolving.
When our daughter was required to work Sunday mornings at a faith-based nursing home, she felt conflicted. Shouldn’t she be in church Sunday morning like she’d always been taught? Work on Sunday was wrong, right? I told her, people have to eat, whether it was Sunday or Wednesday. I encouraged her to consider treating her work on Sunday as a ministry, not a job. Yes, she should have that attitude every day, but Sunday was a starting point. “Do your work in the name of Jesus as a way to honor and worship Him by serving the least of these.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was encouraging her to worship God by doing good. And that idea is definitely a biblical principle.
Think about what Jesus said.
Lawful to do good. Read the verses surrounding that phrase. Catch what Jesus said about rescuing an animal and the importance of human beings. Doing good not just lawful, meaning the law allows it. it’s a good idea to do good on the Sabbath. In fact, it’s a great idea!
Rest is not merely taking a nap. Nor is it sitting around doing nothing and shirking responsiblity. Sometimes I find the greatest rest by doing different activities. Sabbath rest can come when I’m partnering with God and approach my activities in relationship with Him and worship of Him. Doing good to someone else in the name of Jesus can leave me exhilarated. Tired maybe, sometimes even spent, but it’s a good, satisfying tired.
And think of the impact we would have on our families, neighborhoods, and communities if we intentionally used Sundays to “do good” to other people. The world’s idea of a religious person is one who faithfully goes to church each Sunday. And on Sunday, the world is more aware of the church; in fact, like the Pharisees, they’re looking for ways to pounce on us and point out how we’re messing up. Like Jesus, we could turn societal perceptions about Christianity sideways if we smothered that day of the week with good acts toward other people.
What would that look like?
One church in Tucson Arizona spends one Sunday a year doing community projects, like repainting classrooms and grounds maintenance at a local school.
Another church in Tucson, who has no building of their own, travels from church to church each Sunday, offering to serve, whether it’s as greeters, children’s ministry helpers, or as custodians.
Can this work for individuals? Sure!
What a blessing the day Al and Shelly came to our home shortly after my husband’s surgery. They prayed with us, brought dinner to us and then said, “How else can we help you?” Well, my need that Preacher Creature (P.C.) couldn’t do was to install some curtain rods. Al came back on a Sunday afternoon to install my curtain rods, even refusing to let me pay him for the replacement rods he had to go buy. He blessed us. He encouraged us. We grew closer in the bond of Christian love. And we praised God for meeting our need and for the friendship of a Christian couple. It was Sunday. I would say we worshipped!
What can you do?
You can encourage your church to go out in the community and work together to do good. But even as an individual, you can use your Sunday hours to bless others. Here are some ideas.
- Spend Sunday afternoon writing letters of encouragement to friends.
- Connect with more distant family members through phone calls, Messenger, or emails with whom you want to maintain and build relationships.
- Do that repair job you’ve been promising to do for a child or a spouse.
- If you’ve had a relationship issue in the past week, take time to resolve the issue. Seeking peace is a form of doing good, according to 1 Peter 3:11.
- Send a thank you letter to a church leader.
- Visit someone in a nursing home or in the hospital.
- Check on an elderly neighbor. For more ideas of how to love on your older neighbor, check out my friend, Kim Jackson’s ministry, Elder Orphan Care.
- Bake some cookies for a neighbor with children.
And all those church responsibilities that seem like work? Treat them, not as work or duty, but as your way to do good for the Kingdom of God.
I think P.C. had the best idea of all. Carve out a time on Sunday to intentionally pray for specific groups or events within your church. If a youth group meets Sunday evening, plan to spend that hour in prayer for the young people. You may not be able to join a group service project, so spend time praying for them instead. And, if you are an early riser, carve out time first thing in the morning to pray for the preaching minister as he is probably up early as well, making last minute preparations.
Add to my list. Share in the comments below ways you’ve found to do good on Sundays or ways you’ve witnessed churches doing good. Let’s change the world’s perception of how Christians spend their Sunday. Let’s give them the opinion that Christians are a good and generous people who love their neighbors above themselves.
God has created us to do good (Eph 2:10). We honor God and aim the spotlight on Him when we do good to others (Mt 5:16). The best way we will showcase our love and worship of God on Sunday is by reflecting His light and love to a watching world. What better day to do that than Sunday when our culture is watching and scrutinizing how we live and act as Christians.