“He answered, ‘Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’” (Matthew 12:3-8 NIV)
According to the web site Theology of Work, this is what is said: “One of the chief areas of conflict between Jesus and his opponents was in keeping the Sabbath. In this passage, Jesus is criticized by religious leaders for allowing his followers to pluck and eat grain on the Sabbath. The Pharisees regarded this as work, which was forbidden on the Sabbath. Jesus dismisses both their interpretation and their motivation. He argues that plucking just enough grain to satisfy immediate hunger does not break the Sabbath, because both King David and the temple priests did so without incurring God’s rebuke (Matt. 12:3-5). Moreover, true adherence to the Law of Moses should be motivated by compassion and mercy (Matt. 12:6). God’s love of mercy (allowing hungry people to pick grain to eat) is higher than God’s desire for sacrifice (following Sabbath regulations), as had already been revealed in Micah 6:6-8. The gift of a day of rest each week is a promise from God that we do not have to work incessantly just to make ends meet. It is not a judgment against relieving someone’s hunger or need on the Sabbath.”
This was a great explanation of how to handle seemingly blurred lines between working and not working on God’s holy day. But I can’t use this as an excuse to perform truly nonurgent and noncritical work – something a work-addicted person like me is prone to justify and be guilty of committing; it can only be performed when there is immense hunger or any sense of pain or bodily need. And I loved this perspective that honoring the Sabbath isn’t one of the Ten Commandments as a rule to punish me if I violate it; it’s a promise from God that obedience will allow His provision – not mine – to take place. And a wise person would be…wise…to choose that over their own abilities.
“Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ He said to them, ‘If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’” (Matthew 12:10-12 NIV)
Another type of work that is permitted on the Sabbath is helping people and things in need. If it brings glory to the Lord, it’s not for personal gain, and it’s an opportunity to be more Christlike…these opportunities are dishes at a healthy AYCE buffet; they’re unrestricted and I can have at it.