If you are not a church goer, and you wake up on Sunday thinking, “Boy, Olive Garden sure sounds good for lunch” you best get up early and arrive as the restaurant doors are opening if you want to beat the “Church crowd.”
This is especially true if you happen to find yourself in the south.
I was shocked, upon moving to Kentucky, to find that eating out after church usually requires a 30 minute wait to be seated. Often, during these waits, I brainstorm ways to stagger service times of all area churches to successfully eliminate the Sunday lunch problem. And then I wonder how Christians, myself included, find the nerve to eat out on Sundays at all.
Before I explain why, let me provide a preface…
All the way back at the creation of the world, we find that God designated a specific day for resting. He spent six days building the expansive universe that we call home, designing our planet, filling it with creatures, and seeing that it was good. On the seventh day, God did not work. He rested.
…And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation…. -Genesis 2:2-3 (ESV)
This day was later dubbed “The Sabbath Day.” Throughout the Old Testament, we find specific laws for God’s people, regarding the Sabbath.
…He (Moses) said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’”… Exodus 6:23 (ESV)
God did not want people to labor in the fields on this special day. Instead, He wanted them to use the time for rest and reflection. For generations and generations after this point, the tradition became that food would be collected and meals prepared on the day prior to the Sabbath.
As Christians should already know, when Christ came to die for the sins of the world, He was the fulfillment of the Law; therefore, we are not bound by the Old Testament regulations and restrictions.
In Matthew chapter 12, we see that Jesus himself does not abide by Old Testament traditions on the Sabbath Day. He was questioned by Pharisees as His disciples picked grains of wheat on the Sabbath, and He healed a man on the Sabbath.
“For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” –Jesus, Matthew 12:8
Most theologians agree that since the New Testament does not specifically state that we must observe the Sabbath day, this law has “passed away” much like the Jewish sacrificial system. The Old Testament Sabbath has been abolished since the coming of Christ and we now observe the first day of the week for fellowship, teaching, communion, and prayer in the example of the early church.
Sunday, or whatever day on which you meet with the church, is not a replacement of the Old Testament Sabbath. Since Christ’s resurrection for the fulfillment of the old law, I encourage Christians to view every day as the Sabbath day. We should live, fellowship, rejoice, and remember Christ’s sacrifice every day, as every day is holy.
I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent. The purpose of this post wasn’t really to educate you on the origins of the Sabbath and the current status of the Old Law, but a little background information was necessary for me to effectively make my next three points.
1. If you happen to be a New Testament Christian who still subscribes to the “Don’t do any work on the Sabbath day” rule (an oxymoron if there ever was one) and you’ve turned Sundays into your personal church and resting day… If you truly believe that it is best to observe Sundays in this manner, then how dare you hit up the local Applebee’s after church, requiring that waiters and waitresses not attend church and not rest so that you can have the satisfaction of feeling more devout than the sinners preparing your meal. If I hear one more person smugly state, “Oh, I don’t believe in working on Sundays,” while being served at a local eatery, I may have to stomp over and throw down some scripture (Although this approach, I recognize, would defeat the purpose of the message).
2. My next point is along the same line. If you choose to eat out on Sundays (which in itself is not unbiblical) bear in mind that the world is watching. It’s easy to spot the church-goers in a crowd on Sunday. We’re typically done up in our dress clothes, maybe still toting a Bible around, discussing items on the prayer request list. Remember that as followers of Christ, we are in the world, but not of the world. We’re supposed to set an example.
In high school and college, I had several friends and acquaintances who worked evenings and weekends at our local restaurants and diners. I was appalled by the horror stories I heard of the Sunday afternoon “Church crowd.”
“They’re stingy! I do everything I can for them, and I’m lucky if I get a 5% tip!” said one of my friends from school, complaining about the group that came over every Sunday from the church on the corner.
“A family last week let their kids pour ketchup on the table, dump the salt shaker out, and run wild all over the place,” groaned another.
And the stories go on and on. Bossy, gossipy women… grumpy old men… unruly kids… horrible tips… complaints to the manager…
I’m sure (at least I hope) that this trend isn’t accurate for all groups of church-goers in all regions of the country. However, the consensus as far as I can tell is that NO ONE enjoys working the Sunday afternoon shift and serving the stuffy, rude “Church crowd.”
I don’t want to believe it. The “Church crowd” should be the highlight of their week! We should be the kindest, cleanest, best tipping patrons of them all! I think a major problem stems from the fact that people are merely being “Church-goers” as opposed to the bricks of the church itself! If you do eat out on Sunday, realize that you may be the only exposure to church the restaurant employees get that day! Be the best representation of Christ you can be!
(NOTE: You should strive to live like Christ every day, but, good grief, make an extra special effort when you’ve come straight from church at least!)
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. . .” – Ephesians 5:1-2
3. This next point I really want to hit home, as this is the issue that will apply to the majority of believers. I’m sure you are familiar with, or at least can deduce the meaning of the term “stumbling block.” This term is sprinkled throughout certain translations of the Bible in both Old and New Testaments. A stumbling block is anything that can cause confusion and/or temptation. For example, you might hear someone say, “I never keep any alcohol around my place because I don’t want it to be a stumbling block for my visitors.” What this person is trying to communicate is that, at some point, he may entertain a guest who has a weakness for alcohol, and upon finding it in a Christian person’s home, may be tempted to believe that over consumption is okay. It’s a basic principal of Christian living: if you believe something to be sinful, you shouldn’t want or encourage others to participate in that action. The flip side of this is also true: If you believe something is beneficial, such as fellowship with other believers, then you should encourage others to take part in it.
This is where I really struggle, I’ll admit. I love eating out with friends and family after Sunday morning service, however, each time I do, I experience a twinge of conviction. For me to enjoy that nice meal, many individuals, whether Christian or not, had to forgo church attendance.
I’ve never worked in a restaurant before, but I did interview for a waitress job in college. At the end of the interview, the manager informed me of what I could expect in hours and pay. He strongly promoted taking Sunday lunch shifts if I “really wanted to rake in some cash.” This would require me coming in around 9 a.m. and missing church. I was later offered the job, but made the decision to turn it down. As tempting as the extra money was, I knew that I had to keep my priorities in order; I refused to book up my schedule on Sunday mornings.
Now, if your church is one that offers a 6 a.m. Sunday service for those who have to work later, thank your preacher and elders! That is awesome! More churches should do it, though I understand it isn’t usually practical.
Like I said, I’ve been wrestling with this concept for several months now. Brandon and I have had several Bible studies and discussions about going out on Sundays. And this doesn’t just apply to restaurants. Shopping counts too! Can I justify taking part in our consumer driven culture on Sundays when it contributes to more than a few empty pews? What if all Christians made the decision to not eat out or shop on Sundays? Would restaurants and stores still stay open that day of the week? Would employees still be forced to come in on Sunday mornings?
Once again, I’m rambling on with big ideas that will never become reality, so I’ll leave you with this thought. The Bible does not specifically say “Thou shalt not eat out on Sundays,” but it does say in Romans 14:23 that if the Holy Spirit convicts you of something and you do the opposite, that you are sinning. Brandon and I are going to prayerfully attempt to limit our excursions out on Sundays, although we realize that this isn’t something specifically condemned in the New Testament.
If… when… you go out on Sundays, do not forget that YOU are a brick in Christ’s church. You are a light to the world. A little love can go a long way. I am begging you: Don’t be that person who turns someone off to church. Be kind to your servers. Show utmost respect. Keep your table clean. Give your waiter a compliment. Invite him to your church’s evening service. Leave a substantial tip. Tell the manager how pleased you were with the meal and the service. Ask someone if you can pray for them. Bring church to them! That is, after all, your divine calling.
“Live wisely among those who are not believers and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” – Colossians 4:5-6
“Now, may the God of peace – who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood – may He equip you with all you need for doing his will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.” – Hebrews 13:20-21