A Sabbath Experiment

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Stephen Tobolowsky was out for an early morning drive with his son Robert when his boy spotted a man sitting at a picnic table in a park. The man was reading a newspaper and was surrounded by balloons and drinks. It was seven in the morning, and the man in the park was saving a spot for a birthday party.

Stephen decided to turn the situation into a learning experience about the Sabbath for his son.

The father explained what the man was doing and how they might brighten his day by getting some snacks for the man and unexpectedly giving them to him. He also said that they could be like “Sabbath” for this man since the Sabbath was a weekly “thank-you” from God with no strings attached. Robert was thrilled with the idea.

When they approached the man at the picnic table, the man quickly explained the place was reserved for a party. But they persisted and told him they simply wanted to give him a hot drink and a muffin. Robert beamed as he stepped forward with the cardboard tray holding the food. The man tried to pay, but Stephen refused and said, “It’s on the house.”

Back in the car Robert was laughing hard about the surprised look from the shocked man. Stephen then told his son, “You see, that’s the lesson. Sometimes goodness can come from nothing.” Isn’t that the truth? Every week God blesses us with the Sabbath, a day of rest that is a gift. It comes from nothing we deserve. We didn’t work or pay to receive the Sabbath. It comes only from God’s goodness showered on us each week from above.

When we show kindness to others on the Sabbath, we become a Sabbath blessing to them. Jesus demonstrated that Sabbath was not a day to focus on oneself, but to reach out to others—especially the suffering. When rebuked by a synagogue ruler for healing a woman on Sabbath, Christ defended His actions by saying, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?” (Luke 13:15).

Stephen and Robert gave unexpected kindness to an unknown man sitting at a picnic table in a park. The father’s Sabbath experiment taught his son how to pass along God’s goodness to others. And in the process, the gift of happiness came back to them. Perhaps we all should conduct more Sabbath experiments.

Like to discover more? Watch “The RESToration of Life.”

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