Archive | Ten Commandments

What Does it Really Mean to Keep the Sabbath

The drama goes on. You know, all that stuff about whether Katelynn, my eleven year old, can wear make-up. I have come to a tentative conclusion and it has to do with the fourth commandment. We will get to that in a moment.

Some people need to take a sabbath rest from going church. Just hang with me. I will get there too.

I don’t know about you, but I love Chick-fil-a. It is our families favorite place to each on a dime (or so). My youngest, Zach, is made purely of Chick-fil-a chicken nuggets and chocolate milk. It is amazing what the body can turn those two into. Chick-fil-a is not open on Sundays, so Zach justs practices his 3-year-old fast that day. I admire Chick-fil-a for not being open on Sunday. I think it is one good application of what it means to keep the Sabbath and make it holy.

For most people that I know, the obligation to keep the sabbath is either seen as null-and-void in the church age or it simply means that we “go to” church. If you hit Sunday School and “big church” you have done double duty! However, I don’t believe this captures the essence of the fourth commandment very well.

The fourth commandment is found in Exodus 20:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exo 20:8-11 ESV)

This commandment is one of the only commands that is tagged with an explanatory clause, helping us understand the reason for its institution. As the Lord rested on the seventh day of creation, so also we are to keep the Sabbath “holy.” The parallel here is between “rest” and “holy” in verse 11. They key here is that the Sabbath is set apart (i.e. “holy”) as a day of rest from our labors. The term “sabbath” translates the Hebrew sabbat (שבת), meaning “to cease.”

As I said before, many people believe that this is the only one of the Ten Commandments that does not have an abiding moral principle, being completely fulfilled in Christ. While I agree that Christ is our Sabbath rest (Heb. 3:9-11) in that he fulfilled the Law and we have rest from our labors, I don’t think that Christ’s fulfillment takes away from the principles being expressed that are truly eternal. We still need to take breaks . .  and a whole lot more.

Christ made it clear that the Sabbath was created for man (Mark 2:27). Paul makes it clear that no one is to become legalistic about when we take a sabbath (Col. 2:16).  

Today, in our industrialized world, we have much more opportunity for rest then did the Israelites in the Old Testament times. Their labor was a sweaty field labor. Most of the time it was hand to mouth. As well, it lasted from sunrise to sunset. And we think we have it hard! For them the dictum was: “Don’t work today, don’t eat today.” It was that simple. In our western world, we normally work from 8am-5pm and take two days off! Continue Reading →

What Does it Really Mean to Take the Lord’s Name in Vain?

What does it mean to use the Lord’s name in vain? This is a question that might seem self-evident to most people in western society. Whether you are religious or not, you would not even hesitate with your answer, “It means to say ‘G D’.” I am sure that there are more people that can answer this than there are who can list the ten commandments, name the Gospels, or tell you the difference between the New Testament and the Old Testament. For this reason, I thought that I would try to contribute to this discussion by asking the question “What does it really mean to take the Lord’s name in vain?”

Obviously, I am going to say something that is at odds with the common conception among those of us who grew up in the context of our western Judeo-Christian culture, otherwise I would not have included the word “really,” and put it in italics! The reader must also be warned that I am going to use a phrase that is very offensive to many. I am assuming that I am dealing with a mature audience who understands the intentionality that I bring to this blog. If what I am proposing here is correct, we all need to hear this in order to overcome a serious issue of folk theology that damages the character of God and misrepresents what it means to talk in a “Christian” manner.

For most, the ultimate violation of the third commandment, “You shall not take the Lord your God’s name in vain,” is to say “God damn it.” You can use just about every other word or phrase, no matter how bad, but when your vulgarity includes the utilization of this phrase, many would believe that you have crossed the line. You might even be charged with blasphemy. Some people will stand before God and when asked “Why should I let you in to heaven?” will proudly say, “Because I did not murder, commit adultery, and I never said the ‘G D’ word.” (Please note, I don’t think God is going to ask that question. Don’t go there.)

I believe we have this wrong. In fact, from a purely objective standpoint, I don’t believe that this phrase causes God to bat an eye whatsoever. Think about it this way for a moment. Why would calling on God to damn something be so bad? What does the verb “damn” mean? The American Heritage Dictionary defines the verb “to damn” as “the act of pronouncing an adverse judgement upon.” To call upon God to damn something is neither sinful nor unbiblical. In fact, you can find people throughout Scripture, especially in the imprecatory Psalms, who call upon God to bring judgement on their enemies. In other words, they are asking for God to damn those who they feel are ripe for His judgement. In this sense, saying “God damn you” can be as biblical as saying “God bless you.”

Some may say to me the reason why this is a violation of the third commandment is because people are using God’s name in a “vain,” “worthless,” or “empty” way. In this case, to say “God damn it!” in our colloquial tongue is not the same as seriously calling upon God to damn something or someone in a biblical sense. For these people, if you say it with the biblical meaning, fine, but if you say it casually, then you have used His name in an “empty” way and thereby have broken the third commandment.

But there are three major problems with this line of reasoning:  Continue Reading →