Is the Sabbath a Burden or a Blessing?

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Some argue that it makes sense that the Sabbath is no longer a command that Christians must obey because it is burdensome to obey the Sabbath. However, Scripture teaches that the Sabbath was designed by God to be a blessing, or a delight, not a burden.

Isaiah 58:13-14 – The Sabbath Is a Delight (blessing, not a burden)

13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 58:13-14

Here, Isaiah says that God’s people should “call the Sabbath a delight,” and that if they do so, they will experience the great blessings of taking delight in the Lord, riding on the heights of the earth, and being fed with the heritage of Jacob.

It is clear from this passage that the Sabbath was designed by God to be a blessing for his people, rather than a burden.

Exodus 20:11 – The Sabbath Is Blessed and Holy

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 20:11

Here, we see that God “blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The clear implication is that created the Sabbath day to be good, rather than a burden.

Matthew 12:1-14 – The Sabbath Is About Mercy, Not Sacrifice

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.

Matthew 12:1-14

Here, Jesus contrasts the way the Pharisees viewed the Sabbath with how the Sabbath should ”’actually”’ be viewed: the Pharisees viewed it as a system of rules and regulations—as “sacrifice”—but Jesus says that the Sabbath should actually be viewed as a day for “mercy,” or for doing good.

Thus, we see that the Sabbath is meant to be a day of blessing and mercy, rather than a day of burden and sacrifice.

Mark 2:23-28 – The Sabbath Was Made for Man

23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of[a] Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:23-28

Here, Jesus says that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The clear implication then is that the Sabbath was made to be a blessing for us and that we were not created to obey the Sabbath as if it were burdensome.

The Right Perspective on the Sabbath

We should not view the Sabbath as a day of obstacle, but rather as a day of opportunity to especially focus on the things of God and set aside our regular, “worldly” (not in a sinful sense) habits. God, in his infinite wisdom, gave us the Sabbath to help us establish a pattern of work and rest, for our blessing and benefit.

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