Saturday, March 12, 2011

Work and the Sabbath Part I

The Sabbath debate continues in Jamaica, and in particular in the media, where a recent letter to the editor was published in the Gleaner. However, while I am not going to join the debate and say Sabbath must be kept, I do want to explore the issue of work and the Sabbath.

There are many and varied perceptions about work and the Sabbath. The Sabbath commandment calls for the cessation of labour (Exodus 20:8). However, the Sabbath day does not mean the cessation of all activities. It should not be confused as a day of inactivity. It speaks to a day of cessation from particular activities. Those particular activities relate to the idea or work - which I define as paid employment (or self-employment). When defined this way, the question arises, does the Sabbath call for a cessation of voluntary activity? In other words, what activities are permitted on the Sabbath?

Clearly, the example of Jesus shows that the L-RD did not mean for the Sabbath to become a day of inactivity, but a day for relationship and working on relationships. This can be seen in the fact that the L-RD commanded that the Sabbath be a day of assembly (Leviticus 23:3).

G-d is concern that we as human beings have the tendency to spend much of our time working to earn a living that we forget to spend time with the people who we are providing for/attempting to ear a living for. We also have a tendency as human beings, because of work commitments and being "busy", to have little time set aside to meet with other people outside of business arrangements (or so it used to be in the past). As a result, we get locked into our little positions and a narrow view of life, without seeing the broader picture. We do not get to purposely meet other people outside of professional commitments or business relations to reflect on a values, community and morality. We have little time for community building and development, because we are more consumed in giving time to our work, own business and other parochial concerns.

The Sabbath is therefore given from the example of G-d to man (Mark 2:27). In it, G-d demonstrates that even the Supreme Provider takes time out to enjoy a relationship with those whom he provides for as well as give humanity an opportunity to better know and become acquainted with their Creator and Provider (Genesis 2:2-3).

As such the guiding spiritual principle behind the Sabbath is the pursuit of volunteer work that will lead to better or healthier relationships and to healthier and betterment of other people apart from ourselves (Matthew 12:11-12).


Campbell, S. Peter. "Continuing The Sabbath Debate" (Letter to the Editor) Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Saturday | March 12, 2011

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