BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church
Have you ever had the experience of giving up something you treasure only to receive something of far greater value in return? When I was a young adult, I was 6’ 2’’ tall and weighed about 165 pounds. Yes, I heard all the jokes, like the one about having to run around in the shower in order to get wet (not literally true, by the way – a few steps to each side were usually sufficient). I also temporarily enjoyed that rare, mysterious ability to be able to eat anything I wanted without gaining any weight. Put all of that together with a sweet tooth and an over-indulgent mother and, needless to say, some very bad eating habits were developed. One of the worst was my 9:00 pm binge. I would come home from baseball or basketball practice famished and proceed to consume either a whole frozen pizza and/or a quarter of an apple pie (my mother made 2 or 3 every week) with a few scoops of ice cream. When I left home, my involvement in sports diminished, but my 9:00 pm binges continued (sadly, minus the apple pies).
When I reached the age of thirty, God, in His infinite wisdom, threw a switch somewhere in my over-heated metabolism, and, all of a sudden, my days of eating on a blank caloric check were over. My poor eating habits suddenly began adding pounds to my frame, and, since I had never learned any discipline, I was helpless against the onslaught. As a matter of fact, the 9:00 pm binges were now more deeply entrenched than ever, at that point known as the “whew…work is done, the kids are in bed, time to veg out in front of the TV” binge. It has taken me years to break my addiction to that cherished ritual, but in the process of giving it up, I have gained many better gifts in return. I’m eating less and more healthy foods; I feel better; the food budget is smaller, and I have learned much about resisting the lusts of the flesh.
It is so often that way in our relationship with the Lord. Like little children hanging onto a much-loved but broken and useless toy, we kick and scream when our heavenly Father begins to take it away from us for our own good. We are too short-sighted to realize that He wants to replace it with something brand new that is far better and lasts far longer.
One area where I see this struggle against God’s better provision for us is our use of our time. I have often made the comparison between the tithe as the 1/10th of our increase that belongs to the Lord, and the Lord’s Day, which is the 1/7th of our time that belongs to the Lord. In each case, we show our trust in the Lord’s provision by giving a significant portion back to Him – that tenth of our money is His, not ours; that seventh of our time is His, not ours.
I do not have space here to present a full Biblical case for the ongoing requirement for observing the first day of the week as a Sabbath, a day of rest and worship. I will assume agreement on that point. But I am convinced that most believers who believe in keeping the Lord’s Day do not believe that the Lord expects us to give to Him a full 1/7th of our week. The Lord’s Day is to be a “holy” day – a day set apart from the normal work and responsibilities of the rest of the week. Knowing how to keep the Sabbath can be difficult to discern in some instances, but, in general, the principle is pretty clear – as far as possible, we are to lay aside the activities and responsibilities that characterize the other six days of our week in order that we might spend the day “in the public and private exercises of God’s worship” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 60). We seem to have downsized our Lord’s Day to a more “manageable” 1/14th of our week at best, or, more often, 1/100th of our week (if it is only restricted to a couple of hours in church). The rest of our so-called “Lord’s Day” is spent on our own wants and needs and looks pretty much like any other day of the week.
I would challenge you to look at how you observe your Lord’s Day and answer the questions for yourself: “Am I giving to the Lord the full 1/7th of my week that He requires? Or do I give Him a pittance of a couple of hours so that I can spend the rest of the day as a ‘family day,’ or an ‘overtime day,’ or a ‘household chore day,’ or a ‘shopping day?’” Do you trust Him to give you enough time for these purposes during the other six days of the week?
The sad truth is that we are not cheating the Lord by limiting the hours of His day, we are cheating ourselves. We must take the long view, give up our bad Sabbath habits, and trust Him to provide us with the results that He has promised: “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight…then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob…” (Isaiah 58:13,14).