Sabbath-keeping in today’s crazy-busy world

By Jessica Brodie

“Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy.”

It’s fourth on the Ten Commandments, coming even before “don’t murder,” “don’t commit adultery” and “don’t steal.” And yet of all God’s commandments, it’s the one many of us—this writer included—shuffle to the backburner time and again.

Sure, we might “keep the Sabbath” by going to church or not going in to the office. But if we spend the rest of the day knee-deep in work-as-usual, picking up the house or hitting the grocery store, are we truly honoring God’s command or just paying lip service?

The last few Sundays, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t kept the Sabbath like I should. Even though I’ve gone to worship, I’ve worked my tail off the rest of the day. I kept intending to go for a long, peaceful walk and read some extra Scripture passages and take a bubble bath, but instead one chore turned into another, and by the time I tucked my kids in for bed, I was more exhausted than on my typical workday. Sure, I’d gotten the laundry done, meal-prepped for the week, vacuumed the house, caught up on dishes, organized my closet, and done my dutiful half hour of weight-training, but I’d let my spiritual side suffer in the process. You know that story in the Bible about workaholic, uber-responsible Martha grumbling while her sister Mary lazed at Jesus’s feet, only to have Jesus say Mary had picked the right path (Luke 10)? Yep, I’d spent the day in Martha mode—at the expense of my spiritual refreshment and my Sabbath. I chose work over God.


In today’s crazy world, with stores open on Sundays and business conducted like it’s just another day, it can be challenging to remember to keep the Sabbath. But Sabbath-keeping is important, not only because God has commanded us to do so, but because if we don’t, we miss out on needed soul refreshment. We honor our God when we keep the Sabbath—not just by going to church for an hour, but by truly treating the day as holy, special, and different.

Here are some ways (in addition to church) to practice Sabbath-keeping in today’s crazy world:

1. Go for a long walk

Spend time in creation by taking a leisurely walk or even a hard, pounding run or bike ride… but make sure it’s about basking in God’s beauty, not exercise. It’s fine if you happen to get cardiovascular benefits, but that shouldn’t be the primary reason. Use your time outdoors to enjoy the world around you, to broaden your mind, to meditate on God, to pray. Really think about your place in the world and your relationship with God. Think about how He can use you in a different or better way.

2. Relax with some simple time

Spend some time with young kids or animals (even if you have to volunteer in the church nursery or walk your neighbor’s dog). Kids and animals have a unique way of looking at the world, and their perspective can’t help but rub off on us. Kids notice things we often don’t see anymore: flowers, the colors of the sky, cloud shapes, faces in the pavement. Animals force us to pause, to breathe, to race around, to snuggle. The perspective shift is a good one because it takes us outside our norm and into a new, fresh reality—a more natural, innocent, vibrant way of looking at the universe around us—that enhances our souls.

3. Creation vacation

Another way to keep the Sabbath is by spending a day in creative mode—whatever that means to you. If you cook for your spouse and kids every weeknight, shake things up a bit on a Sunday by baking or preparing a special lunch or brunch, and allow yourself to take time to enjoy the process. Slow down. Don’t rush. Plant some colorful flowers… just because. If you’re a photographer or writer all week, consider spending your Sabbath in a different pursuit of your craft. Journalists might try their hand at poetry on Sundays, or watercolor artists might explore the woods with a camera—for pleasure, not profit.

4. Extra time in the Word

Spend some time in the Bible. If you don’t normally read it daily, keep the Sabbath by cracking open God’s word and reading whatever draws you in: the psalms, the New Testament, or just start at the beginning. If you already have a daily or regular habit, go deeper, or switch to a different Bible book for the day. Bask in it.

5. Help with a ministry

Another way to keep the Sabbath is by serving as Jesus’s hands and feet in the world. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, help your church do some home repairs, or mow your elderly neighbor’s lawn. Take your time, and look for the God moments throughout your day.

Those are just a few suggestions. Comment below if you have a unique way that you keep the Sabbath, or if you enjoy any of the above!

Jessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. Read more of her blogs here, or check out her bio and fiction and journalism work here.