Does 1 Timothy 5:8 Allow Working on the Sabbath?


1 Timothy 5:8 reads as follows: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

God tells us very clearly that we are not to work on the Sabbath to make money (Exodus 20:8-11). But does this command also apply when a family is in need of money?

Let us first look at the general responsibility of a husband in regard to his wife and family.

Ephesians 5:25 – 29 tells us:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.”

A husband is to love his wife and his family and care for them. This of course implies taking care of their physical needs and not to neglect those needs. The comparison is given as to how Christ loves the church. He nourishes it; that is, He ensures the members are fed spiritually. God also takes care of our physical needs (Philippians 4:19). And we read that Christ cares for the church and protects it. Notice also the admonition about nourishing his own flesh which is to provide food for himself, his wife and his family.

Further admonition to husbands is given in Colossians 3:19-21:

“Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

Husbands are to love their wives. They are not to provoke their children, which includes providing for their needs. We have many examples in the Bible of men providing for their wives and families, including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Some husbands had large families and ensured they were well taken care of, and they still were obedient to the laws of God, refusing to work on the Sabbath.

The question may be asked as to what to do if a husband does not earn enough money (which is normally the case today), or if a man falls on hard times and cannot provide for the basic needs of his family. Is he then entitled or even obligated to work on the Sabbath?

The Bible does not allow us to do so. Some may point at some “safety nets,” such as unemployment benefits, food banks, governmental assistance, etc., but these are only temporary measures (if at all) which do not give us real answers. The Church of God also provides temporary and discretionary third tithe assistance for its members to help them in emergency situations (including for widows, orphans and “Levites”).

If a capable husband is temporarily unemployed, he is not to just wait for a miracle, without doing his part. It is his job to find a job. It goes without saying that in this day and age, and especially in our western societies, a capable wife may have to help out by finding employment herself, or to assist in other ways (note Proverbs 31). In fact, this is basically the norm today in most cases—especially, when there are no children, or when the children are gown. However, if there are small children, it should be guaranteed that they do not suffer in the process and are well taken care of. Such arrangement should be by mutual consent between husband and wife.

God commands us that we are to rest on the Sabbath and to cease engaging in our customary and usual work for the purpose of making money. God tells us to rest on that day from our labors as God did after the re-creation week. He did not rest because He was tired, but He gave us an example to follow. After all, the Sabbath was made for MAN (Mark 2:27).

Keeping the Sabbath holy by observing it brings blessings. Breaking the Sabbath brings curses, even if one feels justified to do so. Rather than thinking that we need to work on the Sabbath to provide for ourselves and our families, Christ told us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then God promises us to give us what we need (Matthew 6:32-33). This requires faith, and we have to do our part, to be sure, but God will open up for us possibilities to find a good job and other opportunities, so that it is never an option for us to violate any of His laws.

Lead Writer: Rene Messier (Canada)

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