“Closed on Sundays.”
For many people, the fact that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sunday is probably a major bummer. And it is not a little ironic that many church goers probably drive by their local Chick-fil-A applauding the franchise for their convictions to be closed on Sunday…only to head on to the next available, and open, restaurant. If you have grown up in the church you most likely have an internal, and eternal, battle about the Sabbath. After all, if God needed to rest after 6 days of working, how much more do we? OK, so I don’t really believe that God was exhausted on the 7th day; but I do believe that many of us are, and the Sabbath can rightly be seen as a gracious gift.
Still, it seems to be more than just a gift. After all, it is included in the Ten Commandments right along with “Thou shalt not…” murder, steal and covet. If you or I were coming up with ten essential commandments, my guess is that taking a day off would not make the cut. So why is it so important to God?
In the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 5, the commandments are listed. Most read like bullet points but the Sabbath has a rather lengthy explanatory note attached to it. The listeners are reminded that they were slaves in Egypt…”Therefore” the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. God ties the Sabbath to the redemption of being brought up out of slavery. “You used to be slaves,” God declares, “but now I have changed that – so don’t live like a slave, be free!” As Pharaoh’s slaves they were sub-human, objects for his own pleasure, never free to rest. One day blending in to the other, day after day, after day. Now God has graced them with freedom and they can truly enjoy the Sabbath to rest, to engage in restorative activities and share the blessing of relaxed time with friends and loved ones. And, consequently, they must not enslave others, but let them be free as well. In other words, they can now, like God, redeem their own world by giving their servants, their children, their animals, and even the alien in their land the same blessings. Thus the mandate, “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy,” is not about appeasing God as much as it is partnering with God by passing along the blessings of freedom to others.
This is precisely what seems to be at the core of Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy’s philosophy when he started the company back in 1967. According to Cathy, his reason for being closed on Sunday was as much practical as spiritual. The day off gives each employee time to “rest, spend time with family and friends, and worship if they choose to do so.” Yet I would contend there is an even bigger lesson being communicated through this conviction, and that is that Cathy chose not to be a slave to money. It is estimated that by being closed on Sundays, Chick-fil-A, as a company, loses 1 billion dollars per year. Now the truth is that Chick-fil-A is one of the highest grossing quick service food chains, outperforming KFC, Chipotle, Panera and even Pizza Hut on a per store basis. So, yes, they have made lots of money but not at the expense of their convictions and not at the expense of exploiting their employees. They have, instead, chosen to be free; as God intended them, and the rest of us, to be.