The Sabbath as Moral Healing and Training

In his controversial book, The Righteous Mind, and on several YouTube videos Jonathan Haidt talks about the six main moral values that help frame people’s sense of right and wrong. He notes that liberals tend to focus on the first three of these, and the conservatives tend to see all of them equally, but emphasize the last three just as much or a little more than the first three. The libertarians really get focused mostly on the third one.

1. Care/Nurturing–doing good to others, avoiding harm, supporting life and healing

2. Fairness– justice by either equal distribution (liberal approach), or getting what you deserve for your hard work or punishment (conservative and libertarian approach).

3. Liberty- freedom to decide, autonomous decisions, freedom from oppression

4. Sanctity/purity– sense of propriety, respect for bodies and traditions, honor for life

5. Loyalty– team work, faithfulness to a group or ideal, consistency

6. Authority– respect for hierarchy, systems, order, and the chain of command


While his book is written from an evolutionary perspective, which I disagree with adamantly, I think many of his observations about human moral nature are accurate and that these six areas do carry much of the moral experience, sensing, and thinking of most people.

I have come recently to see how the Sabbath aligns as a tool to help all six areas get reinforced in the life of humans.

As such, I see the Sabbath as God’s tool to grow morality in people.

1. Care- On Sabbath we were to nurture our relationships, taking care that even the animals got the day off (Ex 20). It was a day we also took care of each other (Is 58).

2. Fairness- The Sabbath commandment has both just rewards (“six days you should labor” is the command to all) but also radical even distribution (everyone regardless of success or failure gets Sabbath off). There is something very equalizing when you know that God grants everyone a day of rest. That is radical…. As A. J. Jacobs put it, there is something cool about a God who forces you to take a day off each week. Radical equality. Is 58 outlines also the radical social justice that would be a part of this day.

3. Liberty– The Sabbath was meant to be the most freeing day of the week. You don’t have to do your regular work. You can figure out what you want to do and do it. “Let no man judge you about your use of the Sabbath.”

4. Sanctity. Ezekiel 20, Genesis 1, and Ex 20 all suggest that the Sabbath was designed to be santified and then it was to be a tool to sanctify–keep us sane about life and its value. There is nothing like slowing down the materialism of the week, meeting with others and having more time to talk, that santifies humans.

5- Loyalty– The Sabbath keeping was to be a statement of our loyalty to the God of creation, the God who delivers and the God who will judge and come again. No other single event is as universally available to show loyalty to the God of the Bible than this “odd” but extremely defining Sabbath day rest.

6. Authority– Yes, most of Christianity keeps Sunday, but there is ONE day that is clearly defined in Scripture as the Sabbath of the LORD GOD. That is Saturday. Saturday shows the authority of God and it stands as a subtle but significant contrast to Sunday, which was promoted by backsliding Catholicism in the third century.


May the Sabbath continue to be a tool for your moral development.

Haidt, thanks for helping me see these. While I disagree deeply with your evolutionary premise, I think you are right about these six areas.


2 Replies to “The Sabbath as Moral Healing and Training”

  1. […] to social justice and rest. I think the Sabbath presents useful moral teachings.¬† See what I have written on the Sabbath as a moral training tool of God. However, once again, like healing, I see the Sabbath as framed within the general teaching about […]


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