If Your Job Requires Sabbath Work
by Richard Wiedenheft
Living by what we believe will carry consequences.
Throughout history, God's people have been caught in a conflict:
They've had to choose between obedience to what they believed
was their Sovereign's will on the one hand, and the demands of
the physical culture in which they lived, on the other. Today,
Christians who espouse the seventh-day Sabbath, face the same
dilemma. Many jobs require work on Saturday. Many social,
athletic, and academic events occur on Friday night or Saturday
-- the day Sabbatarians believe God set aside at Creation for
humanity, the day sanctified in the fourth commandment, the day
upheld by the teaching and example of Jesus and the Apostles.
The root issues are these: Do we really believe our Father's
will is for us to rest on the seventh day? And if we do, is our
desire to please Him the guiding force in our lives?
Christians are called to take up the cross of Christ, to put His
will ahead of everything, to love Him more than they love even
their own lives (Luke 6:46,
14:26). But when it comes to financial loss, reduced
lifestyle, or fewer social opportunities, we often bend the
Sabbath to conform to our culture. Perhaps the truth is that we
believe in the Sabbath merely as a nice theological concept, but
not as something to suffer for. Perhaps what we really believe
is that the Sabbath makes more Biblical sense than observing
Sunday, but that it's not a big deal to God.
As for people who are not convicted that God wants them to
observe the seventh-day Sabbath, while I think they are wrong,
the following exhortations apply in a general way, not
specifically to the Sabbath. A person can only be expected to
live according to what he believes.
From the time the serpent tempted Eve until now, individuals and
groups have been severely tested on their beliefs. Would they
put their faith in, and love for, God ahead of all else?
Consider a few examples of people willing to make great
sacrifices to obey God's will.
Joseph refused to commit adultery, though it meant displeasing
his employer, losing his job, and ending up in jail. What if
he had said, "I'd better go along with what my mistress wants,
or I could lose my job"?
Moses chose to stand up for his people rather than live in the
luxury of Egypt. He spent the rest of his life (80 years) in
the wilderness herding sheep, and then "herding" people, who
frequently did not appreciate him.
Daniel could have gone to a private room to pray where his
enemies couldn't see him, but he was not about to let them
think he was compromising his devotion to Yahweh.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have said, "Boy, we
won't be any good to God if we're dead! Think of all the
people we can influence for Him if we live. We can just pray
to Him while we're bowing down before Nebuchadnezzar's
John the Baptist proclaimed the sins of the people - even of
the king. He wasn't popular with the royal court, ended up in
prison, and then lost his head. What if he had said "I'd
better tone down a bit because I can't do any good for God in
prison." Jesus said there was none greater than John.
Peter refused to stop preaching the name of Jesus, though he
was jailed and eventually martyred. What if he had said, "I've
got a family to support. Surely God wouldn't want them to
In post-Biblical days, many groups of people and countless
individuals have paid dearly to be true to their
In 1492 Ferdinand and Isabella ordered all Jews out of Spain
unless they converted to Catholicism. Many left, never to
return to their homeland.
John Hus, a Bohemian priest, refused to retract his views
against transubstantiation, papal primacy, and praying to
saints. He taught that the Bible alone should be relied on
in matters of religion. Brought before the Council of
Constance, John was convicted of heresy and burned at the
stake in 1415.
Exactly 120 years later, death came to another Catholic for
what he believed. Sir Thomas More - member of the English
Parliament, lawyer, member of Henry VIII's Privy Council,
knight, speaker of the House of Commons, and Lord High
Chancellor - resigned from his positions rather than approve
the divorce of Henry VIII from his first wife. He was
ordered to sign an oath acknowledging the king as the head
of the church in England. Though his family begged him to
sign, he refused, and was beheaded.
Eleven years later, a young English woman, Anne Askew, was
arrested for refusing to profess the Real Presence (of Jesus
in the communion host) doctrine. She was mercilessly
questioned for five hours, tortured till nearly dead for
names of others who shared her belief, and was sent to the
Four years after that, things took a more Protestant turn in
England, and people who didn't conform (whether Catholics or
Protestants) were persecuted. Joan Bocher of Kent went to
the stake for refusing to retract her questions about the
Incarnation. She pointed out that her persecutors had come
to believe the very doctrine for which they had burned Anne
Askew just a few years before.
About the same time, in the city of Geneva dominated by John
Calvin, Michael Servetus was condemned for two heresies:
Unitarianism, and rejection of infant baptism. Refusing to
recant, he was chained to a stake and burned alive.
During the twentieth century, Jehovah's Witnesses,
Seventh-day Adventists, and others who refused to go to war
on behalf of Kaiser Wilhelm or Hitler were imprisoned, put
in concentration camps, and/or executed. Lutherans and
others who refused to accept the domination of the church by
the Nazi party were stripped of their jobs, imprisoned, and
persecuted; many died!
Under Communist rule in the Soviet Union, Romania, and
elsewhere, Christians who tried to practice their faith had
their children taken away. Many were sent to prison camps;
We may not agree with all the beliefs for which these people
were persecuted. The important fact is that they really lived
what they professed and were willing to suffer, gladly or not,
for their convictions.
We live in a nation where freedom of religion is a fundamental
right. Consequently, most of us have suffered little for
practicing what we believe. But then there's the Sabbath of the
fourth commandment, which is so out-of-step with the mainstream
of Christianity that dominates the Western world. Do we who
espouse the seventh day really believe it is part of God's will
for His people who have been saved by His grace? Do we really
believe God wants us to rest on the seventh day? Do we really
believe we deny our love for Jesus when we don't do what He
The people mentioned above were willing to pay an exorbitant
price for being out of step with the mainstream of their
day. But far be it from us to deprive our children of any
opportunities because of our Sabbath conviction! Far be it from
us to risk financial hardship due to the seventh day! Far be it
from us to suffer economic or social loss to serve the Savior
who gave His life for us! And if we aren't willing to suffer a
small loss for Christ, how do we think we could ever suffer a
great loss, as did those mentioned above?
I do not write this as one who has suffered great loss for his
faith. I've never gone to bed hungry because of my faith - but
I hope I'd be willing to. I've never seen my children in pain
for lack of medicine because I wouldn't take a job that required
me to work on the Sabbath - but I pray I'd be willing to. I've
never gone through a winter without heat because I wouldn't work
on Sabbath - but I hope I'd be willing to.
I realize that it's easy to pontificate about these things when
we're not faced with suffering. But that doesn't change the
truth that, if we really believe Jesus calls us to do something,
we should be willing to suffer for it. Unfortunately, I fear
that too many of us (including me) are more influenced by the
values of this world - happiness, physical comfort, financial
security, pleasure, acceptance - than we are by the values of
the world to come.
Of course, Jesus said that acts of mercy and pulling oxen out of
ditches were entirely permissible on the Sabbath. Each
individual must decide for himself where working on the Sabbath
leaves off, and taking care of an emergency begins. The same
principle applies to deciding how to obey every other command of
God: honoring parents, loving God above all, not coveting, being
merciful, loving one another, etc. Would we take a job to feed
our hungry children, if the job required us to lie, cheat,
steal, commit adultery, or sign a confession to things we didn't
believe? Then why would we take a job requiring us to work on
the day we say we believe is God's Sabbath?
Again, I address this only to those who believe God wants His
people to keep the Sabbath. If you don't believe the fourth
commandment is for Christians, be honest about it. If you
believe it is optional, or if you worship on the seventh day for
family or social reasons, then be honest about it. But if you
believe that God created the Sabbath for humanity, that it was,
and is, part of His will for His people, that He is pleased when
His people observe His Holy day, then you must be willing to pay
a price for that conviction.
Most of us will probably never appear before a religious or
governmental body and be forced to choose between denying
Christ, and death. But in a real sense, we all appear before the
world every day. And by our actions we proclaim whether we love
God more than anything else. We tell the world whether we
really trust Him to take care of us according to His will, or
whether we are willing to compromise what we believe, to avoid
sacrifice and pain in this physical realm.
The martyrs mentioned above were willing to suffer for
theological concepts, for prayer time, for bowing down in a
certain time and place, for signing a piece of paper. Oh that we
who say we believe Jesus wants us to observe the Sabbath, would
count it joy to suffer some loss, some pain, some missed
opportunities in this life, because we are wholly committed to
serving the Savior who died that we might live for all
From The Bible Advocate, December
1999, © 1999. Used by permission.
Richard Wiedenheft lives in Barrington, IL, and is a frequent
guest speaker in Church of God (Seventh Day) and other
Sabbath-keeping groups. He is a past President of the Bible
Sabbath Association. This article appeared in the December
1999 issue of The Bible Advocate.
Work and the Sabbath
Having worked in secular jobs the first 45 years of my life,
this situation came up many times. My answer was always the
same: "I will not work on the Sabbath. This includes from
sundown Friday through sundown Saturday." I lost three jobs as
a result, but our God rewarded me by providing better
opportunities elsewhere. We must obey with faith, believing
God does provide for His children. When people ask me what
they should do, I discuss my history and encourage them to be
the best employees on the job. That goes a long way when
asking for concessions of your employer. - Pastor Don Rodgers