Can You Keep Your Job, Get Your Degree, and Keep the Sabbath?

By COGwriter

Can you keep your job and keep the Sabbath?

What about getting a college or university degree and keeping the Sabbath?

What about Holy Days?

Despite laws, there can be challenges, but it can be done.

Here is a link to a related video titled: Can you keep the Sabbath and your job? What about college?

Keeping Your Job and Keeping the Sabbath

Year ago, CG7-Denver’s Bible Advocate magazine had the following article by Dr. Daniel Botkin:

“I’d like to keep the Sabbath, but I can’t. I have to work on Saturdays.”

Wrong. No one who believes in keeping the Sabbath has to work on Saturdays, at least not in America. Americans who work on the Sabbath do so by their own choice, not because they have to.

Sabbathkeeping Christians in Communist Russia were ordered by their oppressive government to work on Saturdays. Many of them chose to obey God rather than man, and they lost a lot more than some crummy job. They suffered imprisonment,exile, and torture for refusing to break God’s holy Sabbath. When we stand with these faithful saints before the Lord on Judgment Day, will any of us have the gall to say, “Well, Lord, I wanted to keep the Sabbath, but I couldn’t. I had to work”?

Informing your employer

How does a disciple of the Messiah go about getting every Sabbath off from his job?

First, you do not go in and ask your employer if you can have Saturdays off. You are not there to make a request; you are there to inform. You inform your employer (politely and respectfully, of course) that you will not be available to work from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Your employer may respond in a number of ways:

“I’ll see what we can do, but for now you’ll have to keep working Saturdays.”

“We can give you Saturdays off, but you’ll have to work on Friday nights.”

“We’ll try, but you may have to occasionally come in on a Saturday if we’re short of help.”

None of these responses is acceptable. Pharaoh tried three times to persuade Moses and Aaron to compromise the Lord’s demands (Exodus 8:25-29; 10:8-11). Moses and Aaron steadfastly refused to accept Pharaoh’s solution, and we must likewise refuse to accept an employer’s offer to compromise.

If your employer refuses to accommodate you, one solution is to look for a different job. However, that may not be necessary. If this particular job is important to you, you may want to inform your employer of his legal obligation toward employees’ religious practices. This should be done politely and respectfully, not in an obnoxious or threatening way.

What the law says

Many people do not realize that federal law requires employers to accommodate employees who need time off for religious reasons, unless the employer demonstrates that accommodation would result in undue hardship on the conduct of its business. You, the employee, do not have to prove the validity of your case. It is the employer who must prove that letting you keep Sabbath would cause undue hardship to his business. The burden of proof is on the employer, not on the employee.

Federal law considers the following solutions to be “reasonable accommodation” that would not cause undue hardship to an employer’s business:

• Securing a substitute worker (even if the employer has to secure the substitute).

• Flexible scheduling (flexible arrival and departure times, floating or optional holidays, flexible work-breaks, use of lunch time in exchange for early departure, staggered work hours, permitting an employee to make up time lost due to the observance of religious practices).

• Lateral transfer and change of job assignment.

The employer must offer the alternative that least disadvantages the individual (i.e., the employee) with respect to his or her employment opportunities. The employer can also be required to bear the extra costs of accommodating the employee, unless the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determines that it is “more than a de minimis cost.”

Sometimes an employer is afraid to give an employee every Saturday off for fear that other employees will see this and likewise demand every Saturday (or Sunday) off for religious reasons. However, according to federal law, this is not proof of undue hardship: “A mere assumption that many more people, with the same religious practices as the person being accommodated, may also need accommodation is not evidence of undue hardship.” The above legal information can be found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (sections 701[j], 703, and 717, eeoc.gov) and in Part XII Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Religion.

These laws apply to labor organizations as well as to employers. The laws pertain not only to scheduling (though this is the most frequent accommodation needed) but also to other religious practices, such as a man’s right to wear a beard because of his religious convictions. The employer’s legal obligation to accommodate “pertains to prospective employees as well as current employees.”

Sabbathkeepers need to know that employees have legal rights to reasonable accommodations and that some employees take their employers to court to enforce these rights. Sometimes the employer wins the case, when it truly would cause undue hardship for the employer to accommodate the employee.

When undue hardship is not an issue, though, the law is on our side. Most employers are reasonable people and intelligent enough to know that it would be wiser for them to accommodate your need than it would be to refuse. Many employers will respect you for taking a firm but polite stand for what you believe. If they are smart, they will know that a person with strong convictions is likely to be a reliable, honest worker with integrity and will find a way to accommodate you.

Other options

Some employers are not so kind and understanding and will simply say, “No, you have to work on Saturdays.” In that case, you must pray and ask the Lord to show you what He would have you to do.

Would the Lord have you take your employer to court, or would He have you look for a different job? (You don’t need to pray about whether or not the Lord would have you keep working on the Sabbath. He’s already told you in the Ten Commandments not to do that!) Fighting for your legal rights in court is one issue, but there is also the issue of maintaining a good testimony as the Messiah’s disciple. Some questions to consider:

• Do I really want to work for an employer who lets me have the Sabbath off only because he was forced by the court to do so?

• Will going to court result in resentment or jealousy in my workplace, and do I want to work in such an atmosphere?

• Is this job really worth fighting for?

• Is it possible that letting me have every Sabbath off really would cause undue hardship for my employer’s business?

• Even if the court rules in my favor, would there still be some hardship, and would it be right to let my employer bear this inconvenience?

Keeping your job should be your third priority here. Keeping the Sabbath and your testimony are top priorities. If you can do this and keep your job, great. Personally, I would not feel comfortable forcing my employer to pay extra costs in order to accommodate me, even though the law can require the employer to bear these minimal costs. For the sake of my testimony as the Lord’s disciple, I would prefer to not exercise this legal right and pay the extra costs myself, unless my employer cheerfully insisted on bearing the cost.

If my employer is willing to bear some minor inconvenience in order to accommodate me, then I should be willing to bear some minor inconvenience to keep the Sabbath. Every situation is unique and has many factors to consider. If you do lose your job for the sake of obeying the Lord, the Lord will honor your sacrifice. He may not provide another job immediately, but He has promised to meet your physical needs if you seek His kingdom first (Matthew 6:33).

True identity

So don’t let your employer or anyone else tell you that you have to work on the Sabbath. You are not called to be a slave to your job. You are to treat your employer with honor and respect, but he is not your Owner and Master.

If you are a disciple of the Son of God, then He is your real Owner and Master. You are called to be a servant in His kingdom, not a slave to the world system.

While laws vary in differing locations, as do interpretations of laws, most of the time in the USA (if unions are not involved) it is possible to keep a job and the Sabbath when there is a conflict. However, this does not mean that one will not have other problems or be somehow discriminated against in other ways. A past case in New Zealand protected a Sabbath keeper there (see NZ man awarded cash because of Sabbath-related termination).

I personally was nearly jailed (while working for the government) and threatened with job loss throughout my earlier careers, because I kept the Sabbath. As it turned out I was not jailed nor fired, but there still is a risk for many.

Jesus taught that real Christians would face trials (Luke 22:28) and persecutions (John 15:20).

What about working to handle a seasonal surge or other such need? Here is what the Bible says about that:

21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. (Exodus 34:21)

So, no, the ‘busy season’ at work does not negate the Sabbath.

Aren’t you suppose to respect authority?

Yes, but there are limits:

26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”

29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:26-32)

While the apostles accepted the authority of being arrested, they did not conclude that they needed to violate God’s laws. Notice also that the Apostle Peter declared that the Holy Spirit of God is given to those who obey Him–not to those who obey humans above God.

When scripture says to obey in all things, this is not a license to bear false witness for an employer, murder for an employer, or violate the Sabbath for an employer.

But yes, employers and others may judge:

18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20)

But true Christians obey God–even if it does not look like humans will allow that. Consider also the following:

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:13-18)

It takes faith to keep the Sabbath when your job or livelihood (Exodus 34:21) seems to be at risk. But the Bible teaches that we are to obey God rather than men (Acts 5;29).

Of course, some countries and cultures make it more difficult, but that also is not justification for not obeying God.

Christians should also remember that the Sabbath command has two parts:

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. (Exodus 20:8-11)

Christians are to work when they can on the other six days. Volunteering to work on Sundays, for example, can be helpful as many in the world want that day off.

Christians also are to actually work at their jobs and not pretend:

5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. (Ephesians 6:5-8)

22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality. (Colossians 3:22-25)

Many employers will keep a productive worker, even though that worker keeps the Sabbath.

Remember the example of Joseph from the Book of Genesis. Despite being improperly sold into slavery, he worked hard and that was noticed.

Anyway, it is often possible to keep one’s job and the Sabbath.

In situations where that is not possible, either try to get another job and/or attempt to work for yourself.

What About Degrees?

I became a Sabbath keeper shortly after finishing High School.

While keeping the Sabbath and the biblical Holy Days, I attained an Associates, Bachelor's, Master's, and Ph.D. degree. As well as other ones.

It was not always without problems. Sometimes my grades suffered. And my Ph.D. program threatened to kick me out if I missed two Sabbaths of instruction. I missed those days, but did ask another student to record the lectures which I listened to later--and the university did not kick me out.

Our oldest two sons also went through school and both attained Bachelor's degrees from universities while still keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days.

We did NOT have to ever threaten the colleges or universities (though I came close related to my Ph.D.).

Basically, we spoke with the instructors in advance to try to make up work we would miss, and we did do the make up work.

That being said, some colleges and universities want either a statement from a minister or are unfamiliar with the law.

In such cases, there are legal precidents in the USA that can be pointed to.

Various court decisions have upheld the rights of individuals seeking exemptions from work or school based upon religious beliefs. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits discriminating on several bases, including race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Since most schools do accommodate other students by not scheduling them to attend classes on, or even close to, Christmas for example, they are also not to discriminate to against those who hold to differing religious beliefs for time off. Disparate treatment is an overt form of discrimination, involving unequal treatment on the basis of a religion. Disparate impact is when an institution discriminating in this way has no express policy for treating one or more religious groups unequally, but occurs when a policy that makes no mention of a particular religion yet still functions to discriminate by affecting only certain religious groups. Most schools understand these issues and will allow students to be off to observe religious holy days and related conferences.

Mentioning this or providing it in writing can help.

Anyway, it is often possible to keep one’s job, get degrees, and keep the Sabbath.

It is not always easy, but I have been able to do them all.

Here is a link to a related video titled: Can you keep the Sabbath and your job? What about college?

Back to home page

Thiel B. Can You Keep Your Job, Get Your Degree, and Keep the Sabbath? COGwriter (c) http://www.cogwriter.com/sabbath-job.htm 2019 0410