Q: Is it wrong to wash clothes or mow the lawn on Sunday? The Ten Commandments say we should not do work on the Lord's Day.

   —Nell Armstrong, via e-mail

A: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:8) is no doubt one of the most perplexing commandments for contemporary believers. Not only is the practical application unclear, but Christ's teachings compound our uncertainty. While in the case of other commandments He pressed them further (don't swear at all; don't become angry, much less kill; do not lust, much less commit adultery), here He challenges religious leaders to relax their obsessive strictness (Luke 6:1-10). He says, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).

So what is the Sabbath supposed to do? It's where we should find rest. Washing clothes and mowing the lawn may fall into the permissible maintenance category, like watering a donkey (Luke 13:15), but we should resist the temptation to spend Sunday (or, for many believers, Saturday) catching up on work we do every other day of the week. We should prioritize those activities that relax our bodies and allow God a chance to refresh our spirits. It will be a personal choice: an office worker might find it restful to work in her vegetable garden, while a farmer would not. Even household chores can be relaxing for those who sit at a computer all day. In fact, I can't wait to get to that pile of clothes in my laundry room.

Frederica Mathewes-Green is the author of The Illumined Heart (Paraclete Press).

Related Elsewhere:

Today's article is on the Rwanda genocide.

A sidebar to today's lead article is on restorative justice.

More on Rwanda includes:

Influence of Roman Catholic Church in Acquittal of Rwandan Bishop Debated | Augustin Misago cleared of 1994 genocide charges. (June 20, 2000)

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