7 Ways to Honor the Sabbath

RJ Thesman

Not that many years ago, the Sabbath represented a different perspective. Stores closed because nearly everyone went to church. Only the people involved in healthcare services or law enforcement worked. Everything else stopped.

But today, we live in a different culture with a busyness worldview. Sunday is often the most productive time for retail. Many of us are just as busy on Sundays as other days of the week.

So how can we honor the Sabbath and thus honor God’s command recorded in Exodus 20:8-11? Is it only a day for relaxation or can we somehow find a new way to honor God on the Sabbath?

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1. Make the day different.

Besides going to church, try to make Sundays different from the other six days. My father-in-law woke up early to turn on the stereo and play a selection of hymns. We all sang along as we dressed for church. 

One way I distinguish Sundays is to turn off all the electronics. No computer, no social media, and my office door closed. If an emergency happens, I can be reached on my phone. But none of the usual marketing, answering emails, or posting on my blog.

Our family eats out on Sundays. It doesn’t have to be a fancy restaurant but it makes the day special. Other families keep Sunday as the day for family board games, special outings, or visits with the grandparents. Be creative and make Sunday different.

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2. Give up something.

How about a special fast for Sabbath—no supper, no dessert, no chocolate? Giving up the usual TV watching is another idea, but that would be a major sacrifice for those of us who are sports fans. Perhaps we could we give up one hour of TV watching for a time of prayer and meditation? Or maybe we could we give up shopping on Sundays? 

I grew up on a farm. We did not harvest on Sundays. Some years, as storms raced over the plains, we lost entire crops from hail and wind. But my dad always believed God would take care of us if we honored his Sabbath.

Think about what you can give up that is your usual routine. Remember Eric Liddell who would not run his Olympic race on Sunday? That sacrifice cost him a possible medal, but it also impacted the world. 

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3. Do something special.

Going to church is a no-brainer, but what if Sundays represented something unique for the entire family? Read a book together in the afternoon. Give a summary of what everyone learned from the sermon. Tell a favorite joke around the lunch table. The family cooks together—one of Grandma’s signature recipes. Do yard work together or a take a family walk around the neighborhood. In the summer, how about a family swim?

My sister-in-law initiated a family tradition. On Sunday mornings, she woke up early to make pancakes. Throughout the years of raising her children, every Sunday marked this special breakfast. The kids woke up smelling the difference Sunday made.

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4. Really rest.

This seems like a redundant suggestion, but Sabbath rest is a gift. A 10-to-30 minute nap can restore body as well as soul. Instead of running around to different activities, set a healthy boundary for rest. Even if the teenager doesn’t want to nap or can’t fall asleep, he can be quiet in his room while the rest of the family lies down.

What about a family nap with everyone spread out in the same room? This idea could become a bonding activity. In fact, I saw this happen on a recent episode of Pioneer Woman. Her cooking show presents amazing recipes but also family life on their Oklahoma ranch. She prepared the Sunday dinner after church, then everyone spread out in the family room on various couches and chairs for a group nap.

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5. Practice hospitality.

Sunday dinners used to be the biggest meal of the week, because relatives ate together. In our family, we often invited visiting missionaries and my unmarried uncle for the Sunday meal. We can do the same thing today, but on a smaller scale. This idea doesn’t have to be a major inconvenience, especially if each person brings something to add to the potluck lunch.

A couple in my church goes to the early service so they can hurry home and prepare dinner. Almost every Sunday, they invite someone for lunch: a single mom, new members of the church, neighbors who just moved in, or caregivers who need a break. They feel this is their act of service, underscored by the fact that she–at the age of 85–does all the cooking while he–at 90–washes the dishes and cleans up.

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6. Focus on family time.

Several ideas for the family have already been mentioned, but others might include: going to a professional ballgame together, driving around to look at Christmas lights, writing a letter to the older brother in college, making Valentines together, watching a movie at home with plenty of popcorn, doing maintenance together on the house, or everyone reading a favorite book and reviewing it.

Don’t forget about music because it’s a great connector. The family sing-along used to be popular. When was the last time you sat and listened to your daughter play the piano? And even if you don’t like the style of music, applauding a teenager’s electric guitar vibes can draw you together. 

Whatever you do on Sundays, do it together.

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7. Focus on personal spirituality.

Building on our spiritual life should happen beyond the church walls. Perhaps Sunday could be your day for journaling, Bible study, meditation, and prayer. Sunday could be the day to focus only on gratitude. Instead of praying for your needs and wants, spend the day focused only on thank you’s to God.

I practiced this idea for several years and learned I had to train myself to thank more and ask less. A focus on God’s attributes at least once per week changed my prayer life. It helped me walk through the next week with an increased focus on gratitude. Our once per year Thanksgiving feast should not be the only time we express our gratitude to God.

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Honor the Sabbath

God gave us the fourth commandment for a reason. Even he honored the Sabbath and rested from the energy spent on creation. We, too, can set healthy boundaries around the first day of the week that will help us grow in body, soul, and spirit. 

As we honor the Sabbath, we also invite a promise from God Himself. In Isaiah 58:13-14, he clearly states, “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 

RJ Thesman is a certified writing coach and the author of 11 books. She often spends Sundays cheering for the Kansas City Chiefs. You can follow Thesman on her website at, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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