Thriving Devotional - April 2, 2020

Good Sabbaths Make Good Societies

I wrote yesterday about Sabbath and God’s great desire for people to be made whole. And it’s true. When we hear Jesus saying “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), we rightly hear those words being spoken compassionately toward us.

But there’s more.

Sabbath-keeping – and I mean the rich spirit of Sabbath-keeping and not just the rules – certainly applies to our private, interior, spiritual lives. It also applies to public, shared life.

There is an old Puritan saying: “Good Sabbaths make good Christians.” Dorothy Bass suggests a corollary: “Good Sabbaths make good societies.” (Bass, Practicing our Faith)

You may know that the Ten Commandments appear twice in the Hebrew Scriptures. In Exodus 20, the rationale for the Sabbath is the fact that God rested on the seventh day of creation. But in Deuteronomy 5 the Sabbath command is rooted in empathy and compassion for others. (Remember Lacey Brown’s excellent sermon: Compassion is empathy + action.)

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt… (Deut. 5:15) Children, servants, animals, foreigners are all cared for under the commandment.

But there’s more. Sabbath isn’t only a weekly observance; it’s woven into the fabric of years. At the end of every seventh year, all debts in Israel were to be canceled so that no one sunk down deep into poverty. God commands that no one among his people is to be poor, and that his people are to be open-handed, not tight-fisted (see Deut. 15).

But there’s even more. At the end of seven cycles of seven years there was to be a Sabbath of Sabbaths, a Year of Jubilee in which everything was forgiven and restored in every way (see Leviticus 25).

But there’s even more, but that will have to be for another discussion!

You can see where this is going. To practice Sabbath is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Resting in God personally is inextricable from caring for the welfare of others; God insists on it! (Greatest commandment, anyone? Mark 12:29-31)

It’s becoming more and more evident to all of us that the economic impact of COVID-19 is real in the lives of people in our community and in the circles we live in, and is not just a news headline.

(There is so much more to say about this, as most of us have been heavily insulated from the poverty that most of the world knows – including Westminster’s partners in Mozambique.) My friend Rob Weingartner, Executive Director of the Outreach Foundation, recently wrote this:

“Much of the global church is set in places of poverty, pressure, and persecution, and their commitment to serve others in Jesus’ name at all times, not just when convenient, helps us to see what it looks like to follow Jesus in our own context. As Bonhoeffer wrote: “The church is the church only when it exists for others…The church must share in the problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving.”

This is where the rubber hits the road. To be God’s people is to be Sabbath people. And to be Sabbath people means to exist for others.

A few thoughts:

  • Go to and note the forum for sharing needs and offers to help.

  • If you are able, give generously to your church and to ministries that are embodying the love of God.

  • Be open to opportunities to help others, and remember that doing so is part of keeping Sabbath and your witness to the world.

May God bless you to be a blessing!

Bob Jacobs is Pastor of Westminster Church, Rapid City. If you're interested in more of Bob's writings, check out his personal blog at

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