Ann Michelle Van Tassell is a mom who realized she had a problem with the Sabbath and her kids. She explains, “Some time ago, I was considering our family’s sabbath day observance, and I noticed a troubling coincidence. At our house, when a kid gets in trouble, he’s not allowed to hang out with friends, play on his phone, watch TV, play video games, or do anything except sit around and suffer with his family.”
She thought about their rules for the Sabbath (they keep Sunday) and concluded that “keeping the Sabbath and getting punished are hardly distinguishable.” The only difference was that for Sabbath, the kids had to get dressed up and sit quietly in church for “three hours of songs and sermons.” Ann knew something needed to change.
Though she gives few suggestions on how to make the Sabbath a delight, she does end her article by saying, “I’ve heard Jews talk about ‘celebrating’ the Sabbath—maybe that’s a model I should look into. It certainly sounds better.” Actually, the Jews do not have a corner on making the Sabbath special! God intended all humanity to enjoy this day of rest on the seventh day (read Genesis 2:1–3). What can parents do to make this day different from being in incarceration?
First, though God’s law prohibits secular activities, the Bible invites us to care for the needs of others and to alleviate suffering. Sabbath isn’t just about what we “can’t” do, but what we “can” do. It encourages us to look beyond ourselves toward others. (See Exodus 23:12; Matthew 12:10–13; and Mark 2:27.)
The Sabbath noon meal, for many families, can be made a high point in the week. It’s an opportunity for everyone to gather around the dinner table at home and spend time together. Sabbath afternoons can be spent exploring nature, making visits to shut-ins or the sick, attending special meetings, enjoy sacred music, putting together nature puzzles, or playing appropriate Sabbath games that teach Bible lessons.
If you are a parent, study to find ways to make the Sabbath a time of caring for others, for enjoying nature, for worshiping God in song and in Bible study. Don’t create so many rules that, like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, the Sabbath becomes a burden. Take time to plan for Sabbath to be a joy for your children.
Enjoy this presentation for kids about the Sabbath called, “A Day with the King.”