In the late forties, when I was in the primary school, our class teacher was fond of giving us homework. One Sunday night, I was battling with my homework on Arithmetic. My mother observed my body movements and knew that I was racking my brain about something. She came closer and asked, “Anyi, what is the problem?” I felt somehow relieved by her question, even though I knew she might not be able to help me because of her level of education. In her time, not many of them, especially females, were literate.
My mother learnt to read and write as a young adult after her parents were converted to Christianity. Therefore, she could read the Igbo Bible and also write letters in Igbo. In any case, I told her that I was having difficulty in solving one Arithmetic problem. She simply asked me to follow her. I stood up and followed her outside the house, somehow confused. Pointing at the moon, she asked me to look at the man on the moon breaking firewood. I saw the man clearly (or so I thought) with his heavy axe, bending over the log. Then she said, “God took a picture of the man and placed it on the moon because he was breaking the firewood on Sunday. This thing you’re doing on Sunday is work. Stop it or God will put your picture on the moon. You can study English but not Arithmetic on Sunday.” From that day, I believed that studying Arithmetic is a serious work.
As for working on Sunday, it is believed that Sunday is a day of rest. However, the actual day of rest God commanded is the seventh day, which is Saturday. Exodus 20:8-10 says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.”
Some groups, like the Seventh Day Adventist, believe that God requires that church service be held on Saturday, the day of rest. However, in honour of Christ’s resurrection on Sunday, the early Christians observed Sunday, as a day to specially worship Jesus Christ.
The seventh day of the week is in remembrance that God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh day. Since most churches observe Sunday as their day of rest and worship, Christians regard Sunday as the Sabbath day.
In the Bible, Nehemiah confronted the people of Judah for working on the Sabbath. He spoke against treading winepresses, bringing in grain, wine, grapes, figs and loading them on donkeys on the Sabbath day. He condemned all forms of work, buying and selling (Nehemiah 13:15-17). A similar stern message was given by Prophet Jeremiah in chapter 17: 21-27.
However, the concept of the Sabbath day has changed in the present dispensation. That is why Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. He did the work of healing on the Sabbath and was attacked by the Pharisees. The principle is that Sabbath was instituted to relieve man of his labours, just as Jesus came to relieve us of attempting to achieve salvation by our works. We no longer rest only for one day in the week, but forever cease our labouring to attain God’s favour. There is no other Sabbath rest besides Jesus. He alone satisfies the requirements of the Law.
In Colossians 2: 16-17, Apostle Paul declares, “Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” We are no longer commanded to cease to work on the Sabbath. The statement by Apostle Paul in Romans 14:5-7 is instructive: “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He, who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He, who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God.”
Health care workers, in particular, who work fully on the Sabbath day or Sunday, should not feel guilty. Pilots, as well as ship captains and commercial drivers of vehicles, who move people from place to place on the Sabbath day are not sinners. Suppliers of items which people need on the Sabbath day are rendering valuable services. Students who study on the Sabbath day are not offending God. But the fellowship of the saints must not be neglected. Corporate worship has its own benefits.
The question is, do you give adequate rest to your body which God has given you to serve Him? Is your work taking the place of God in your life? Do you worship your God only one day in the week instead of worshipping Him daily?