7 minutes reading time (1389 words)

The forgotten first part of the 4th Commandment

What is the fourth commandment – in it’s completely stated form in Exodus 20:8-11? Most of us know it as the one about resting on the 7th day. It is a day we stop from all our work – everyone in our household is to stop. Even the work animals are to stop. There have been many discussions about HOW to keep the sabbath, what we can and cannot do on the sabbath, whether or not we can eat out in restaurants on the sabbath, and on and on. This blog is about what is said in the first part of the commandment that doesn’t seem to get much play.

Six days shall you labor and do all your work, but on the seventh day …..”   (Exodus 20:9).

Get it? One half of the sabbath commandment is teaching us to be sure we are WORKING the other six days. It seems our society has gotten away from wanting to work. America was built on the idea that hard work and education could lead to a better life. A man was proud to “do it yourself” and not rely on others – and worst of all, rely on “the government”. But now we have 47 MILLION people on EBT or food stamps. Some are deserving of it. I have given sermons on our privilege to help the poor and needy. So that’s not my point. But many of those claiming food stamps or some who even claim disability – I’ve seen this loads of times – use our money to buy themselves beer, candy, junk food and take advantage of the system. On the news I heard that some strip bars were even allowing EBT cards to be used for nude lap dances! And I can’t believe that all 47 million can’t do be doing something to get OFF of the food stamp program!

God’s word tells us we are to be generous to the truly poor. But there’s the truly poor – and people who won’t work. God’s word also tells us that if someone won’t work, they should not eat.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12

For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

Now there are those who truly cannot work, cannot function, who are incapacitated. Those people we should help. Absolutely. I’m always so impressed by so many of the veterans who came back from Iraq or Afghanistan with their legs or arms blown off – and are back at work with prosthetics. They won’t let something like that keep them from being productive.

Paul also tells us the REASON for working: so we have funds to help others who truly need help!

Ephesians 4:28

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

Even the rules on helping the poor involved the poor getting out and fending for themselves as much as they could. For example, the corners of the fields were not to be harvested but were to be left for the poor and strangers. But no one gave them hand-outs. They had to go the field and harvest what farmers were leaving for them. Ever read the book of Ruth? It’s largely based on that concept. But today we just give people handouts – often, people who could do something to help out. If they can’t find employment, they should at least volunteer to help at schools, libraries, help clean up sections of highway or help out in nursing homes. IF nothing else, use that free time you have now to get more education in fields that would make you more employable!

Click on at the bottom right where it says “READ MORE” to finish the rest of this blog and to learn what you can do as a parent, as a grandparent to help instill these values – plus there’s a lesson from the State Park system.


If you’re a grandparent – as I am – resist the temptation to “spoil” your grandkids by making it always 100% fun and outings. I think we are seeing a generation that expects handouts and freebies. Too many were raised that way. When my fantastic four grandsons come to our home, they know that they’ll have to make their bed, clean up after they’re done playing, and pick up after themselves. We also are teaching them to work, to cook, be able to do things themselves.

Why? Because that’s what their mom and dad have been teaching them! We just reinforce some excellent parenting we see going on. My grandsons also know that I will likely say something like “before we do the archery, I have some weeding (or raking) for you to help with.” I want them to realize as they grow up that life is not a series of freebies and handouts. Too many children are being raised in homes where they see no work going on and neither are they expected to do any. I want my grandsons realizing work is a good thing. Sometimes I pay them, and sometimes I expect it to be done just to be helpful. And I’m constantly urging them to look for ways to be helpful, just as their own mom and dad do. If they ask me to help them with something, I ask them to try to do it first – themselves – and voila! So often they can. Grandparents: let’s EMPOWER our grandkids to know they can do so much more themselves and should be looking for ways to always help out. And – let’s be teaching them how to work, and work hard! I’m so glad my daughter and son-in-law are doing that with their children.

I’m so impressed by my clients who have “retired”, but rather than spend their whole time on their own pleasures (golf, their own hobbies, etc.)--- they’re out delivering “Meals on Wheels” or doing other meaningful tasks.  

A friend sent me an ironic statement that we feel we have to give handouts to so many, and yet when we go into one ofthe state parks, there are signs warning us not to feed the animals “as the animals will grow dependent on handouts and not learn to take care of themselves.”   Hmm. Is there a lesson here?

I’ve also seen studies which dramatically show that when we keep extending unemployment insurance – to 3-4-5 years or forever – there’s no incentive eventually to find work. They’d lose their EBT food stamp cards, their housing support, their other valuable handouts. Again – my own Mom was on welfare for a while, so I know there is a time and place for it. But my mom did her best to go to night school and become employable—and she did! She wanted OFF of food stamps and welfare. In countries where the allowable “unemployment income” was shut down sooner than it had been before, people went back to work. Somehow they found work!

I’ve seen people with no legs, or no arms, or with badly scarred faces from burns – working hard and supporting their families somehow. And we also see able-bodied people just waiting for the next handout.

The sabbath rest feels that much better after a week of hard work. So don’t forget the forgotten part of the 4thcommandment – that we are to WORK six days a week. We are to be productive, earning a living, so we have something to help others who truly cannot work. There’s so much more we could say. On your own – read how Father and Yeshua both are working (John 5:17).

Exodus 31:16 – “work shall be done for six days….”

Leviticus 23:3 – six days shall work be done, but rest on the 7th.

And again, Paul said – if a man won’t work, he shouldn’t expect to be given food handouts. (2 Thes. 3:10).

So let’s keep the entire 4th commandment – including the first part, that says we are to be working during the first 6 days of each week.

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