The Week-Day, Keep It Holy by Elbert Hubbard

Story type: Essay

Did it ever strike you that it is a most absurd and semi-barbaric thing
to set one day apart as “holy?”

If you are a writer and a beautiful thought comes to you, you never
hesitate because it is Sunday, but you write it down.

If you are a painter, and the picture appears before you, vivid and
clear, you make haste to materialize it ere the vision fades.

If you are a musician, you sing a song, or play it on the piano, that it
may be etched upon your memory–and for the joy of it.

But if you are a cabinet-maker, you may make a design, but you will have
to halt before you make the table, if the day happens to be the “Lord’s
Day”; and if you are a blacksmith, you will not dare to lift a hammer,
for fear of conscience or the police. All of which is an admission that
we regard manual labor as a sort of necessary evil, and must be done
only at certain times and places.

The orthodox reason for abstinence from all manual labor on Sunday is
that “God made the heavens and the earth in six days and on the seventh
He rested,” therefore, man, created in the image of his Maker, should
hold this day sacred. How it can be possible for a supreme, omnipotent
and all-powerful being without “body, parts or passions” to become
wearied thru physical exertion is a question that is as yet unanswered.

The idea of serving God on Sunday and then forgetting Him all the week
is a fallacy that is fostered by the Reverend Doctor Sayles and his
coadjutor, Deacon Buffum, who passes the Panama for the benefit of those
who would buy absolution. Or, if you prefer, salvation being free, what
we place in the Panama is an honorarium for Deity or his agent, just as
our noted authors never speak at banquets for pay, but accept the
honorarium that in some occult and mysterious manner is left on the
mantel. Sunday, with its immunity from work, was devised for slaves who
got out of all the work they could during the week.

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Then, to tickle the approbativeness of the slave, it was declared a
virtue not to work on Sunday, a most pleasing bit of Tom Sawyer
diplomacy. By following his inclinations and doing nothing, a
mysterious, skyey benefit accrues, which the lazy man hopes to have and
to hold for eternity.

Then the slaves who do no work on Sunday, point out those who do as
beneath them in virtue, and deserving of contempt. Upon this theory all
laws which punish the person who works or plays on Sunday have been
passed. Does God cease work one day in seven, or is the work that He
does on Sunday especially different from that which He performs on
Tuesday? The Saturday half-holiday is not “sacred”–the Sunday holiday
is, and we have laws to punish those who “violate” it. No man can
violate the Sabbath; he can, however, violate his own nature, and this
he is more apt to do through enforced idleness than either work or play.
Only running water is pure, and stagnant nature of any sort is
dangerous–a breeding-place for disease.

Change of occupation is necessary to mental and physical health. As it
is, most people get too much of one kind of work. All the week they are
chained to a task, a repugnant task because the dose is too big. They
have to do this particular job or starve. This is slavery, quite as
much as when man was bought and sold as a chattel.

Will there not come a time when all men and women will work because it
is a blessed gift–a privilege? Then, if all worked, wasteful consuming
as a business would cease. As it is, there are many people who do not
work at all, and these pride themselves upon it and uphold the Sunday
laws. If the idlers would work, nobody would be overworked. If this time
ever comes shall we not cease to regard it as “wicked” to work at
certain times, just as much as we would count it absurd to pass a law
making it illegal for us to be happy on Wednesday? Isn’t good work an
effort to produce a useful, necessary or beautiful thing? If so, good
work is a prayer, prompted by a loving heart–a prayer to benefit and
bless. If prayer is not a desire, backed up by a right human effort to
bring about its efficacy, then what is it?

See also  No. 189 [from The Spectator] by Joseph Addison

Work is a service performed for ourselves and others. If I love you I
will surely work for you–in this way I reveal my love. And to manifest
my love in this manner is a joy and gratification to me. Thus work is
for the worker alone and labor is its own reward. These things being
true, if it is wrong to work on Sunday, it is wrong to love on Sunday;
every smile is a sin, every caress a curse, and all tenderness a crime.

Must there not come a time, if we grow in mentality and spirit, when we
shall cease to differentiate and quit calling some work secular and some
sacred? Isn’t it as necessary for me to hoe corn and feed my loved ones
(and also the priest) as for the priest to preach and pray? Would any
priest ever preach and pray if somebody didn’t hoe? If life is from God,
then all useful effort is divine; and to work is the highest form of
religion. If God made us, surely He is pleased to see that His work is a
success. If we are miserable, willing to liberate life with a bare
bodkin, we certainly do not compliment our Maker in thus proclaiming His
work a failure. But if our lives are full of gladness and we are
grateful for the feeling that we are one with Deity–helping God to do
His work, then, and only then do we truly serve Him.

Isn’t it strange that men should have made laws declaring that it is
wicked for us to work?

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