My Sunday Cup Has a Chip In It – Does The Fourth Commandment Really Matter?

article09_image_sunday_cupThis is my Sunday coffee cup, and there is a chip in the porcelain on the bottom. I use this cup only on Sunday.  It is not just an everyday cup.  I got it at the Christmas Market Festival in Vienna, Austria, December 26, 2007.  You bought warm mulled wine and got to keep the cup.  How it got chipped I do not know.  My wife got a similar cup.  Her’s is white.  Not chipped.  Yet.

I have no problem with the Ten Commandments. It’s pretty simple to obey the big ones like “Thou shalt not steal”, or “Thou shalt not kill”.  (Actually it should say thou salt not murder, because it’s OK to kill in certain circumstances.)  But obeying the fourth one, the one the Sabbath day being holy, and that I shouldn’t do any work at all is tough to do.  And it doesn’t stop there, with just me.  It goes on to say no work for me, my son, my daughter, my male servant (as if I had one?!), my female servant, my livestock (really?!), or the foreigner within my gates.  BTW, the wife isn’t mentioned.  Wonder why?  And of all the commandments, the fourth is the longest, has the most words.  Hmmm.

And what does it mean to “keep it holy”? All it talks about what not to do, about not working.  Just don’t work on the Sabbath.  Is work un-holy?

I think the key is in the statement to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”. When I was a kid, I couldn’t play team sports, because the games were on Sunday.  I couldn’t go to the movies or bowling with my friends on Sunday.  That really pissed me off.  We mostly just went to church, had lunch at Morrison’s Cafeteria, then visited my aunt and uncle in Ft. Lauderdale, and I played with my cousin, Frankie.

But what positive things can we actually do, to keep it holy that is? In this sense the word holy means separate, set aside for special use, not common.  Remember the story of Moses and the burning bush, how he had to take off his sandals because the ground was holy?  For as long as we have been married, we try to make Sunday morning feel different.  TV off.  Classical choral and organ music on the radio.  Sunday paper at breakfast.  Going to church was a given.  Never missed.  So getting my Sunday coffee cup out of the cabinet, even if it sounds trivial, was part of the ritual.

But after church all that goes out the window. Does keeping the Sabbath holy for half a day count for something?  And what about this: If we go out to lunch after church, we are making other people work on Sunday to serve us.  What’s ethical about that?  So, we lighten it up a bit.  In the afternoon I do some chores, maybe ironing some laundry, some yard work, puttering around.  But certainly nothing like work to produce any income.

I also recommend Dennis Prager’s Prager U, and his 5 minute video on the fourth commandment. He’s practical about it.  He stresses the benefits and how it can improve your life and the world around us.

Remember this: Actions reflect belief and can create belief. Every time you observe the Sabbath you are affirming that there is a creator.  Or, look at the opposite view: If you are working seven days a week, you are a slave and not free.

I just hope the chip in my Sunday coffee cup doesn’t matter to God.

Quote for today: “As we keep or break the Sabbath, we nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope by which man rises.”—Abraham Lincoln


  • Paul says:

    I had a favorite cup that had multiple chips ontil I dropped it. Now it has multiple fragments! I no longer use it. I remember it fondly.
    Interpreting the Biblcal writings is indeed fraught with danger. What if thou shall not kill was exactly what God meant and when humans create different language to describe what we feel are legitmite and illegitamite reasons to kill our actions are directly opposed to God? A thought!
    I am enjoying today, Sunday, with plans to pick up sticks that blew down. An odd way to enrich my life yet I do enjoy the puttzing around the house.

  • Steve Luurs says:

    Burt This is an interesting religious blog. I was raised in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. In Luther’s Small Catechism the Third Commandment talks about the Sabbath Day; God’s Word- “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy ( Thou shalt sanctify the holy day”). The Fourth Commandment in Luther’s Small Catechism speaks about “The Authorities Whom God Has Placed Over Us; Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth”. Briefly going through the explanation of the Third Commandment in Luther’s Small Catechism I haven’t found a prohibition toward work on the Sabbath that may have been the rule in the Old Testament. I look forward to talking with you about this other topics. Steve Luurs

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