Are Christians Authorized to Miss Church Services Due to Work?
The question raised in this article is an important one we all must consider. Let’s establish two points of truth before answering this question. First, assembling (“going to church”) is undoubtedly required by God. The Hebrew writer exhorts, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Second, Christians are commanded to work. For example, Paul commands in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Paul would also go on to describe one who refuses to work by saying, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). As we can see, both attending the church services and working in order to provide for our families are both of great importance and are commands we are bound to keep. But what if our employer expects us to work when the church is called together to assemble? The Bible provides us with the answer through multiple forms of binding Biblical authority.
DIRECT COMMAND (Matthew 6:19-21; 31-33)
During His sermon on the mount, Jesus expressly commands, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). If we choose to work instead of attending the assembly of the saints, then we are guilty of laying up “treasures on earth” as opposed to storing “treasures in heaven.”
Some will point out that we will likely lose our jobs if we do not work when our employer has told to us perform our duties. The person who makes this statement is probably right, which simply means we need to find another job. The other job might not pay as well and may not have great benefits (insurance, retirement package, etc.), but if we trust God to fulfill what He has promised, then a new job that fits our worship schedule but does not pay as well as our current job should not be an issue – “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33). God promises to provide our necessities, but that promise is conditional on putting Him first. What are we putting first – the Kingdom of God or our secular jobs?
APPROVED EXAMPLE (Mark 1:16-18)
One of the key ways we establish Bible authority is through approved example. It is by approved example that we know the Lord’s Supper is to be administered on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Likewise, we can also find an approved example in Mark 1:16-18 to help us determine if we have authority to miss church services due to our secular work duties.
As Jesus began His ministry, he called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to serve as His disciples. All four of these men were in the middle of working their secular jobs as fishermen when Jesus appeared to them, and their response serves as an example for us today. Mark records, “And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him. When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.” The text should speak for itself, friends. Let’s follow this approved example by casting our work “nets” aside when it is time to focus on spiritual matters.
CONDITIONAL STATEMENT (Hebrews 10:24-27)
Do you recall the full context of the command to assemble that we find in Hebrews 10:24-25? Remember, the Hebrew writer urges, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). I think we sometimes stop reading at verse 25 without considering the next two verses which put forth a conditional statement directly connected with the command to assemble. After giving the command to assemble, the Hebrew writer explains, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27). When we choose to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together” due to our secular jobs, we are sinning willfully, meaning we are choosing to go directly against something God has commanded, and thus come under the condemnation given in Hebrews 10:26-27. We should never deliberately choose to sin, and we should never willfully put secular work ahead of the church services.
At minimum, we have three forms of binding Biblical authority which provide us the answer as to whether we have the right to miss church services in order to perform our secular work duties. Of course, the answer is no, we have no such authority. In John 6:27, Jesus makes it very clear what our selection should be when faced with the choice of going to our secular jobs or attending the church services. Jesus says, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” As an immature Christian, I was guilty of missing the church services for work. I was wrong and I sinned by putting work rather than God first. Please, learn from my mistakes and don’t commit the same sins I committed.
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