The Myth of the Modern Sabbath: Explaining why students today struggle to observe the Sabbath.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20: 8-11.

Many of us have grown up in Christian households, where these words were read from the pulpit. Though most Christian denominations do not keep the Sabbath in the traditional sense, many of us still grew up with Sunday as a holy day with no or few obligations. From all initial appearances, a college student could keep Sunday holy. There are no classes on Sunday, no projects to present or tests to take. We can attend the service of our choosing, with even more options since churches are streaming their services. Even Zime is closed, so students who work there can kick back and take it easy. And how lucky we must be! Instead of one day off, we now have two. For all on-paper matters, Saturday is the same. Two full days of complete rest. Except, this is not the case for most students. 

The number one villain that stalks our Sabbath plans is homework. A student could diligently keep up with every reading or minor project they get during the week, but the moment an essay or larger project is assigned, at least a portion of the weekend can be vital to keep afloat with school. A student with no other responsibilities would still have to take time away from their rest to do homework.  But as much as homework interferes, it’s not the only burden on those who want a holy day of rest. 

Financial pressure can drive a student to give up parts of both weekdays and weekends. Many students must work a job on top of going to school in order to pay for college tuition. Even a few hours a week can dip into their rest days. Resident assistants sometimes work weekends, and student athletes devout most of their weekends to the game schedule. Athletic activities and extracurricular clubs can eat away at what little time remains. Not only that, but Saturdays are full of events, like dances or festivals. 

But what about Sundays? Isn’t Sunday the important part? Sundays aren’t exempt from the bustle of work; this is where homework sneaks in the gaps. If Saturday is full of games, evening rounds, and trying to support the ever-increasing expense of tuition, Sunday is the day full of catch-up work and preparing for Monday. While many students may still make it to church on Sundays, the rest of that day may still be filled with other obligations. 

What happened to a day of rest? The truth is, for the modern student, this day of rest doesn’t exist. This is not a question of time management. A student with perfect motivation to accomplish everything in the week could not possibly keep up with the all the demands of the modern student. As for the student who doesn’t come from money, it’s impossible to “have it all.” 

In order to engage with fulfilling rest and community with others, a true sabbath is needed. If a Sunday is filled with doing the next day’s reading, finishing an essay, or answering discussion posts, where is the time for engagement with a church community, or to spend time in prayer or reading scripture? Those who want to have a rich spiritual life are locked off from it by a time barrier.  As students, it becomes a struggle to prioritize, and spiritual life can often be neglected. When spiritual life is neglected in the student body, as a religious institution, we have to wonder, what kind of Christians are we creating?