CG7: Can you keep your job and the Sabbath?


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, 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).

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

Some items of possibly related interest may include:

The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad Was the seventh-day (Saturday) Sabbath observed by the apostolic and post-apostolic Church? Here is a related sermon video The Christian Sabbath and How and Why to Keep It.
How to Observe the Sabbath? How should you keep the Sabbath? This is an old article by Raymond Cole, with updated information for the 21st century.
The Dramatic Story of Chinese Sabbathkeepers This reformatted Good News article from 1955 discusses Sabbath-keeping in China in the 1800s.
Is God Unreasonable? Some have suggested that if God requires Sabbath-keeping He is unreasonable. Is that true? Here is a link to a related article in Mandarin Chinese 一个不合理的神?
Another Look at the Didache, Ignatius, and the Sabbath Did Ignatius write against the Sabbath and for Sunday? What about the Didache? What does the actual Greek reveal?
Church of God, Seventh Day: History and Teachings Nearly all COG’s I am aware of trace their history through this group. Whaid Rose is the president of the largest CG7 group (Denver). Do you know much about them?
The Sardis Church Era was predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D. Discusses early history of the Seventh Day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, and COG-7th Day.

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