Doing Good on the Sabbath

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Default article daily reflection

And he answered, "If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath."

Matthew 12:11-12

Jews in the time of Jesus were divided on the question of exactly what sort of activity should be permitted on the Sabbath. Among the Pharisees, some allowed for healing on the Sabbath, while the majority in the time of Jesus did not. (Later rabbis would agree that healing on the Sabbath was permitted.) But most, if not all, of the Pharisees in the time of Jesus would have approved of rescuing a farm animal that had fallen into a pit.

Jesus pointed out the folly of the extreme Pharasaic view of the Sabbath by arguing that if it was right to care for an animal on the Sabbath, how much more would it be right to cure a human being. Then he added that "the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath" (v. 12). More literally, this verse reads, "It is right to do good on the Sabbath." Yes, the Sabbath is a day for rest from ordinary work. But, according to Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 11:8), it is also right to heal and do other good things on the Sabbath.

Christians who honor the principle of Sabbath, no matter the exact day, follow the teaching of Jesus by doing good as part of their Sabbath observance. This may include participating in worship, feeding the poor, visiting shut-ins, painting pictures, playing the piano, or practicing hospitality. Though we should be careful not to overdo our good works on the Sabbath, thus missing the crucial component of rest, we can feel free to use the time of Sabbath for doing good.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: If you practice the Sabbath in your own life, what good works do you do? If you are not currently practicing the Sabbath each week, are you willing to consider it?

PRAYER: Lord of the Sabbath, how easy it is for all of us to fall into legalism. Sometimes we care so much about getting the details right that we forget the main thing. We can be like the Pharisees. Forgive us!

Help us, Lord, to discover how we might honor the Sabbath in our own lives. For many of us, this is a new thought. We don't even know quite where to start. So teach us, Lord of the Sabbath, how to rest. And in our rest, may we learn how to do good for others by sharing your healing love. Let us be instruments of your healing with the people in our lives, even and especially on the Sabbath. Amen.