Sunday, March 20, 2011
Sins of the sabbath
I spent Saturday deciding on my preferred Sunday sin. What would it be? Theft? Adultery? Murder?
Worse. I thought I’d get up on the sabbath and pound out a blog post.
The act, according to the Bible, will doom me to hell.
Go ahead and heap scorn upon the content here, but wouldn’t sending me to hell for blogging be like sending Al Capone to the pen for tax evasion?
Yet, it’s right there in the Revised Standard Version of my King James Bible; Exodus 20, verse 8: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work.”
Not only that, it goes on to say it is our sacred obligation to see to it that our sons, our daughters, our cattle, our slaves and any traveler who comes near us is prevented from doing any toil.
Frankly, that last bit sounds like a lot of work.
I’ve been troubled by the Fourth Commandment ever since reading A.J. Jacobs’s 2007 book, “The Year of Living Biblically.” In it Jacobs follows all the arcane and obscure laws in the Bible. It’s uproarious fun mingled amidst a gentle message about how our lives could be better if we really did try to follow the basic tenets of the Bible.
I remember being struck by his devotion to not working on the sabbath. It gave him great serenity, he said, and has subsequently written he still does no work on Sundays.
I met Jacobs when he was assigning stories for Esquire and he was kind to me. In my book (unpublished, of course), that makes him a sort of holy man.
But when he decided to cease sabbath work, he was accepting manna from some prestigious publisher so that taints the whole endeavor. He was, in essence, getting paid to not work on Sundays, a heavenly loophole if ever there was one.
The idea, however, never left me and now it troubles me every weekend.
What is work?
I know real men who do real work in factories and if the boss says so they do it on Sundays for time and a half. These men sneer at me when they talk about work. They no more think writing is work than, say, butterfly collecting.
Who am I to argue? I’ve never collected butterflies, but it can’t pay much worse than writing. Plus, I can’t imagine a butterfly ever calling me up to scream I’ve misquoted him.
Still, I try not to write on Sundays.
You know what that leaves? The honey-do list.
I have gutters to clean, creaky screen doors to fix, bathroom floors that need re-tiling and all the seasonal chores that go hand-in-hand with homeownership, marriage and fatherhood.
Each of those chores fits my definition of real work because I detest doing them and can’t do any of it while sitting zombie-like on the couch and watching March Madness.
But I’d catch holy hell if I said, “Sorry, babe, I cannot prepare the flower boxes for spring planting. It’s Sunday and the labor might anger the Almighty.”
Talk about damned if you don’t, damned if you do.
And what about the holy part? Does that mean we’re supposed to spend the whole day in church? Heck, I fidget when the service runs longer than 57 minutes.
Is flying kites with my daughters holy enough? I can’t think of a more soulful exercise on a Sunday.
It’s all very troubling and very vague. And why is that commandment before murder, adultery, theft, lying, coveting and being sweet to mom and dad?
I think the only safe and wise choice for a guy like me is to spend the day on the golf course.
I have to figure 18 holies is the perfect solution to avoiding the sins of the sabbath.