Sabbath as Good Neighboring

Written by Carl Greene

March 29, 2023

Sabbath rest is about tearing down walls and building bridges. In a season in which our culture consistently practices wall building in word and deed, true Sabbath rest offers us a respite to build bridges with our neighbors. There is more than an art to neighboring,[1] there are healthy biblical rhythms that shape us as good neighbors.

Good neighboring and Sabbath are rooted together in the 10 commandments of Deuteronomy. The first three commandments frame our love of God, while commandments five through ten focus us on our relationship with neighbors. Leading off with the first commandments, we are called to break our idols and place nothing before God. Sabbath is a wonderful exclamation point on the primacy of God by distinctly remembering and relying on Him every seven days. This goes a long way in breaking the idolatry that many of us place on our own self-importance.[2]

Sabbath Bridge

Now catch how the Sabbath bridges into the neighboring commandments. When we enter into the weekly counter-formative practice of relying on God rather than ourselves, we see the roots of good neighboring. The fourth commandment offers an important “neighborliness” guideline. The Sabbath is not just a blessing for ourselves, but we invite everyone within our spheres of influence into the same rest (Deut. 5:14).

The Sabbath rest bridge leads us to see that life is not about ourselves and our selfish interests. The bridge leads us all the way to commandment ten in which we even leave behind coveting. Our love for neighbor releases us from being consumed by idolatry of self. Notice that neighbor is mentioned three times in the final commandment about coveting (Deut. 5:21).[3]

When we live with the restfulness of Sabbath, we leave behind the restlessness of serving self and whatever gods work their way into our priorities. Sabbath offers resistance to making ourselves the center of the universe. Sabbath offers resistance to being so anxious and rushed that we no longer observe our neighbors.

There are plenty of good practices to encourage good neighboring. A biblical blessing is that good neighboring is rooted in our own healthy living. What a blessing that God calls us to multiply rest in our own lives and to invite our neighbors into that rest. Let’s build bridges.


[2] Brueggemann, Walter. 2017. Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now. Louisville: Westminster John Know Press.

[3] Brueggemann, Walter. 2017. Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now. Louisville: Westminster John Know Press.

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