Question: Is it acceptable to study on the Sabbath?
[This question can in on a Talk Back card at our church.]
Unless we want to be really legalistic, we can’t say that studying is NEVER allowed on the Sabbath. But let’s think about the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20: 8-11. God says, "Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy."
This passage - along with loads of others - talks about "keeping the Sabbath holy". God created the world and everything in it in six days, but on the seventh day, he didn't work. He rested.
One thing we need to consider is whether or not studying is actual work. In our sermon series on Sabbath, we have talked a lot about making sure that we don't do anything on the Sabbath that we consider to be work. For students, school and studying is basically their job. They work hard at it - harder in Korea than in any other developed nation. We all need a break sometimes, and the Sabbath is the break that God knew we would need. If students are studying on the Sabbath, are they really getting a break? Are they really able to take time to de-stress, not worry about grades or test scores, or just have fun with their friends and family?
In the 10 commandments, God said that not only the parents or adults who have a job are to rest from their work, but even the children, servants, animals and foreigners should observe the Sabbath. No one was excluded from the command to rest.
Sometimes some emergency comes up that keeps us from doing what we need to do during our regular work or study week. If that happens from time to time, of course we need to fulfill our commitments or prepare for tests, etc. Jesus said that if our cow accidentally falls into a ditch, we would all be right to get sweaty and dirty getting it out, even if it is the Sabbath (Luke 14:5). This is a kind of “emergency work” that is different from ordinary work. There may be times when some “emergency study” is OK.
At the same time, it's really important for the people of God to observe the Sabbath. God didn't just give us this command for no reason. He gave it to us because He knew if we put it into practice, it would be life-changing for us as His people. We all need rest and a day to worship our Creator and to spend time with Him. If you or your kids are doing “emergency study” every week, then something is wrong. That’s not what the Bible teaches, and it’s not healthy.
Students go to school five or six days a week, do their homework, and study hours and hours after school and even on weekends. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because teachers and professors expect a lot, and students want to do their best. Learning helps us develop the knowledge and skills to make a positive difference in our world. On the other hand, taking one day a week for rest, relaxation, worship, and fun, can help us do all that we need to do for the rest of the week.
We all need a break sometimes, and the Sabbath is the break that God knew we would need. It's a command that God gave to benefit us and to help us to live our lives well. Busyness and overwork are causing higher and higher levels of anxiety, depression, and stress-related illness. Wise parents will make sure their children take the prescription of Sabbath rest that God has prescribed.
[Answered by Shannon and Josh]