Scholar’s Compass: Remembering Sabbath

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Exodus 20:8 (NIV)

The spiritual rest which God especially intends in this commandment is that we not only cease from our labor and trade but much more—that we let God alone work in us and that in all our powers we do nothing of our own. –Martin Luther


In Marva J. Dawn’s Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, she tells the story of a summer of graduate school in which she had to learn three new languages for her Ph.D. at the same time, and in one shortened summer session. She believed in keeping a Sabbath for rest and rejuvenation, but would she be able to keep it given the hectic demands of this season of her life? She decided she would keep Sabbath, even though she worked mostly 17 hour days on the other days. And during this demanding schedule, it rejuvenated her even more when she took a 24 hour break for time to commune with God and friends.

We live in an age in which production is cherished above nearly everything else in the workplace. How can we be counter-cultural in this day and age in which our work follows us with our smart-phones everywhere we go? One way is to keep a 24 hour Sabbath, which means not only ceasing to work, but ceasing to do any work (yard work, shopping, all kinds of work we don’t do the rest of the week), so we can truly rest and connect with God. Keeping a Sabbath means extended time with God, extended time with family or friends, extended time in a hobby that gives us life and rejuvenates us. It is a tangible way to demonstrate our faith in the Lord that he is in control of our work life and not us, and the he is gracing us with our production in our work and lives, not ourselves. After all, at any moment our ability to work could be taken away from us by loss of job, failing an exam, even injury. It is truly God who provides for us.

What practical steps can we take to keep a Sabbath?

  • First, pick a day of the week or weekend in which you can keep a Sabbath.
  • Turn off computers and cell phones during that time.
  • Or, if you cannot turn off your phone, you can create a “Sabbath screen” on your smartphone that only has non-working apps on it. For example, a page that does not include your email app or “To do’s” app. Only access this screen on your phone during your Sabbath.
  • Refuse to work during that time. If you work from home, refuse to go into your room where your office is, or where your desk is during your Sabbath.
  • Don’t go do other non-office work during your Sabbath either (like yard-work), unless is it personally rejuvenating for you.
  • Plan times with family and friends that are truly rejuvenating and not frenzied with preparation. For example, if friends are coming for a meal on your Sabbath, pick up some food that’s already prepared, or prepare the meal the day before.
  • Spend extra time, unhurried time, with God. With no distractions, it will be easier to hear his voice, and easier to spend extra time in thanksgiving, thanking God for all he provides and does for you.


  • What aspects of keeping the Sabbath as discussed here are new to you?
  • How might being more intentional with your Sabbath bring you closer to God and rejuvenate you for the rest of your week?


Lord, You have promised rest to those who come to You. Let us keep Your Sabbath today. Let it serve as a foundation of rest as we enter the week, and let it point us toward the Sabbath rest You have prepared for Your people. Give us refreshment and joy in this day and in the week to come. Amen.

Further Reading

Marva J. Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing Feasting. Eerdman’s Publishing: 1989.

Martin Luther, “Treatise on Good Works,” in The Christian in Society I, trans. W. A. Lambert, rev. James Atkinson, vol. 44 of Luther’s Works, gen. ed. Helmut T. Lehmann (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. 72. Qtd. in Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, p. 56.

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at

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Mark Hansard

Mark is on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Manhattan, Kansas, where he ministers to Faculty at Kansas State University and surrounding campuses. He has been in campus ministry 25 years, 14 of those years in faculty ministry. He has a Master's degree in philosophy and theology from Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, CA, and is passionate about Jesus Christ and the life of the mind. Mark, his wife and three daughters make their home in Manhattan.

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