Does Your Fridge Light Offend God?

lightI learned the other day that opening the fridge on the Sabbath can cause problems. It’s because of the refrigerator light. Apparently it’s related to Sabbath prohibitions associated with electrical switches. As far as I can determine it has something to do with the Sabbath day commandment against lighting a fire in a person’s home (Exod 35). Engaging a switch to complete an electrical circuit is apparently equated with lighting a fire in modern Jewish tradition.

Of course there are ways and means of getting around the fridge light problem, such as removing the light globe. Or maybe an easier way is using that indispensable product with 1001 uses: duct tape. A small strip can be used to hold down the switch, so that it remains in the closed-door position, thereby ensuring the light remains unilluminated.

So, what’s so important about this information and why do I mention it?

Firstly, I have nothing against Jews maintaining their own traditions, whether for religious or cultural reasons. I also have no objection to Messianic Jews continuing those traditions after they come to faith in their Messiah Jesus. It’s not up to a gentile like me to insist they have to abandon their cultural ways and adopt a “Christian” way of life, just as there is no need for any other cultural group to abandon non-sinful aspects of their lifestyles. And apart from the inconvenience to those personally involved, avoiding electrical switches on the Sabbath does no one any harm.


1) It is believed and promoted that the prohibition is a directive FROM God.
2) It is believed and promoted that observing the prohibition is doing something FOR God
3) It is believed and promoted that the practice PLEASES God.
4) It is believed and promoted that failure to comply with the practice is sinful and DISPLEASES God.

While the specific example of the fridge light may seem minor, it needs to be recognised that the association of light switches with fire starting is a REINTERPRETATION of scripture, and not an actual directive from scripture. And many problems arise when scripture is liberally re-interpreted to mean something other than what is actually written.

Adding extra conditions to Sabbath observance effectively CHANGES the significance and purpose of the Sabbath. In some cases, those conditions actually contravene the Sabbath, where observing man’s tradition DECREASES the rest from work that the Sabbath was supposed to provide. (I’ve heard of people climbing several flights of stairs rather than take the elevator, due to the same view of using electric switches.)

A choice to observe the Sabbath BIBLICALLY can lead to difficulties for some because scripture doesn’t go into great detail about how it should be done. There aren’t long lists of directions and procedures to follow. The instruction that IS given can more or less be condensed to two main aspects: 1) rest from work and 2) devote the day to God. But for some reason man DOES love to create, follow and enforce religious procedure and ritual.

The significance of a day of rest from work can be found by looking at WHEN the command to observe the Sabbath was first given, and TO WHOM that command was given. The following reference gives a clue:

“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:15)

The Sabbath was given to Israel – a nation brought out of a life of slavery where there was no respite from work. The Sabbath was given to bless them with freedom from work for one day out of seven. It was not intended that they should be slaves to the Sabbath, and especially NOT slaves to man-made traditions that would increase work. This is what Jesus meant when He spoke of the Sabbath being made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
The Sabbath was intended to be a blessing, not a burden.

21 thoughts on “Does Your Fridge Light Offend God?

  1. It is funny that I open my email and read this post today, as I was just thinking about the deception of “religion” this morning. For I was at a friend’s birthday party last night, and a Jewish lady and a Christian lady starting talking about tattoos. The Christian said to the Jew, “I can’t get a tattoo because it is against my religion” and the Jew said, “Well, it’s against mine too. I wouldn’t be allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery if I got one”. Then these two women went on to loudly talk about their drinking binges in bars. Their crude language and talk of their crude behavior got laughs from the majority at this party.

    And this is why I was thinking about “religion” this morning.

    Both women were “religious” enough to care about at least some of their external behavior ie: they would not get a tattoo, however, both women had no change of attitude, lifestyle, or behavior from their “religion”.

    They were as Jesus said, “White washed tombs” and hypocrites.

    And yet, when asked, many like these two consider themselves “saved” or “religious” and/or definitely “going to heaven”.

    It was distressing to drive home from a party held for a “christian”, in another “christian’s home”, where I had just listened to two “religious” women loudly laugh at and proclaim their lewd behaviour, because “religion” has made them feel safe from eternal damnation.

    Indeed, fixing your fridge light so that it won’t turn on on the Sabbath and anger God will not keep anyone from eternal damnation … just as being circumcised won’t save you, refusing tattoos won’t save you, eating or abstaining from certain foods won’t save, and … gasp … even tithing and being a regular church-goer won’t save you.

    The only thing that saves is being a New Creation:
    Galatians 6:14 – But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
    15 – For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
    16 – And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

    May God give us both more opportunities to present these Truths to people in person, Onesimus, in the hopes that He will have mercy on some and save them from the deception called “religion”.

  2. It seems that “Religion” presents a variety of choices where we can pick and choose beliefs that suit the outcomes we want to achieve at a cost we are willing to pay. Man loves to create and follow traditions that give a sense of achieving something (without actually changing anything).

    However the truth can’t be shaped or cherry-picked to suit man’s desires. the Truth requires that WE are shaped and changed by it (or more correctly by Him).

  3. …more opportunities to present these Truths to people in person….

    Did you present “these Truths” to these ladies?

    I think the “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision (which you boldened) is mostly what gets said. And if you had said that in the situation, it would have disproportionately targeted one of the ladies [besides being very odd to speak of circumcision to these ladies who aren’t from Pakistan or anyplace practicing female genital mutilation (which does happen in our western nations too or to girls who live here)].

  4. I was thinking today that the lower frequency of anti-semitism in the United States might be because of the heritage of more men having been circumcised near birth, Jew or non-Jew. I think we need to update our understanding. There are no Roman religion police literally threatening to come take away our place among the people of God.

  5. The practice may please God, along with lighting the Shabbat and havdalah (end of Shabbat) candles. The problem would be number four. But there could still be sin in not doing it say to disrespect your parents or be stubborn toward a Jewish person who enjoys it. Plus, there is really something to be said for maintaining a culture within which a persecuted people survives multiple attempts to snuff it out. It’s different from maintaining a culture that delights in fairies and gnomes. [I saw something recently about gmomes but don’t remember which European people that is.]

  6. It is true that going through pleasant motions seems pointless and silly for someone who is seriously lacking in other areas, but why is that what comes to mind when considering Shabbat customs? And, by the way, is putting tape over the light switch or not really like getting a tattoo or not?

    And further, is there a law against using some stairs? Consider what the issues are when Jesus is questioned or grumbled about on Shabbat. The complainers were the people against him (primarily for political reasons, which were inextricable from religion then). So, while we may try to preempt what we perceive as a slight or something like that, do we in this sense become more like the ones who challenged him?

    That drinking escapade situation was more something to at least not laugh along with, but not because of circumcision… and maybe not even because of tattoos (albeit a person with one might bristle at the standard). So, was there any questioning of the wisdom of the women — any truth to share?

    I understand the discomfort driving home thinking of the Christian women you’d encountered; and perplexity with the Jewish woman. But while we know there are lots of people who show up at church (and here we know it can be for political reasons, or not, the point being not the deeper interest in God), does it follow that the Jewish woman is someone who regularly lights Shabbat candles and goes into Shabbat mode?

  7. “is putting tape over the light switch or not really like getting a tattoo or not?”

    Not really. One relates to a specific command of God, the other to a tradition of man.

    “And further, is there a law against using some stairs? “

    That’s not the point. The point is whether there is a God given law against using an elevator that would require someone to use stairs rather than the elevator. Which of the options is closer to the spirit of the Sabbath and its requirement to rest from work?

    I think the example of the two women given by the first commenter illustrates that effects of religious tradition (and the false security it gives) isn’t limited to one particular religious group. Both seemed to hold to some kind of religious security, and both seemed to have no real idea of the requirements of their particular religious allegiance, or they at least think those requirements are optional.

    Mankind loves the parts of religion that offer some kind of benefit, but doesn’t have much love for personal accountability and responsibility.

  8. @ Marlene:

    I did not speak to the 2 ladies at the birthday party, as it was a party and there was not a time for sharing / witnessing. I did not sit near either of them, nor have their attention at any point during the evening. I also had never met these 2 ladies before, and only knew 2 people at the party…the one’s whose house it was and the one who was having a birthday.

    The point that I meant, when first writing, was that ‘religion’ has a list of things we should do and should not do, and by keeping a religious check-list, many feel they are “good” in the sight of the God and will make it to heaven.

    But a religious check-list doesn’t qualify anyone before God. God indeed has some rules for His people, but even if someone tries to keep these NT rules without being Born Again, they too will see that even the NT ‘check-list’ doesn’t qualify a person to have any right standing before a Holy God. (i.e.: I know of a couple kind New Agers who, by their kindness and loving ways towards people, could put some Christian people to shame, and Scripture itself states that all are condemned under sin and even one’s “righteous acts are as filthy rags” before a Holy God — Romans 5 and Isaiah 66)

    The point I originally meant was that the only thing that makes a person acceptable before God is being “a new creation” Galatians 6:15. And I do pray that each of us will have many opportunities with many people, to share this Truth. The “circumcision / uncircumcision” did not need to be emboldened in my first post, as I was not trying to make any point about it.

    Now, once one is made a New Creation, one is indeed commanded to keep the new set of NT rules (i.e.: John 14:15 and 1 John 3:7-10, Hebrews 12:14 – which is an entirely different topic 😉 ), however, keeping any NT rules in-and-of-themself will not ‘save’ anyone, even as keeping the fridge light ‘off’ on the Sabbath will not save anyone.


    Onesimus wrote:

    “It seems that “Religion” presents a variety of choices where we can pick and choose beliefs that suit the outcomes we want to achieve at a cost we are willing to pay. Man loves to create and follow traditions that give a sense of achieving something (without actually changing anything).

    However the truth can’t be shaped or cherry-picked to suit man’s desires. the Truth requires that WE are shaped and changed by it (or more correctly by Him).”

    You are always so clear and Biblical. I often look for a ‘thumbs up’ sign next to what you write.

  9. You are always so clear and Biblical.

    I always try to be – I’m very aware of how easy it is to make assumptions based on religious ideas that are so easy for us to pick up, and I try to avoid falling into that trap. Surprisingly one of the traps to avoid is rushing to quote scripture. I don’t know how many times I’ve been about to quote a relevant verse to support a point, but on taking time to double check its context I find it doesn’t really mean what I thought and I’ve had to rethink what I’d been about to say and amend my understanding.

    I have found that in the past a lot of my knowledge of scripture was picked up from the teachers I once favoured and not from a PERSONAL connection to scripture. Therefore when I quoted scripture it was usually from the context of a sermon and not from its correct biblical context. That is why I now take the time to check context whenever a section of scripture comes to mind.

  10. I don’t think we need to react reflexively to people observing customs or making choices. It’s one thing to say God didn’t command havdalah observance (for instance). On the other hand, I like havdalah services.

    If I watch for three stars on the evening of a new week, does that call for sermons about not getting out of hell by following rules? There have been times I wasn’t drinking and was queried like I needed to qualify why.

    I’m not going to heaven for buying a frig with a Shabbat mode or for having a havdalah set or even for keeping the sabbath. I’m also not saved for not drinking, at a particular time… or even never drinking at all.

  11. Sorry to have to follow up; want to be clear I don’t perceive God to have commanded that I not drink alcohol (which is different from crude carousing).

  12. Yet another tradition of man: that all Christians should abstain from alcohol.
    If that were the case – what was Paul thinking when he told Timothy to take wine for his stomach’s sake?

    Yes there’s a difference between having a drink of wine and getting drunk on wine.

  13. Someone says, since it’s okay to drink, give me an explanation why you don’t have a drink in your hand at a party (no, really, you have to explain why you don’t want a drink, convince me). And… it’s okay not to participate in tradition, so you can’t get away with participating without a permission thesis.

  14. It seems a Christian who drinks in moderation doesn’t fit in with the “religious” crowd or with the non-“religious”. One condemns all drinking, the other mocks the one who doesn’t drink all the time.

    I’ve been in many situations where I’ve seen people sniggering because I’ve been drinking fruit juice or something else non-alcoholic at a social gathering.

    I have no problem drinking alcohol in moderation and at an appropriate time, usually at home or if I’m staying with family, and only as part of a meal. I think I drank more than enough as a teenager to get over any idea that intoxication is something to be desired. I no longer understand why some people seem to think that drinking (and more drinking) is something to do for entertainment.

  15. Wouldn’t it have been so much easier if the disciples (and Jesus) hadn’t been walking in a field and picking grain on the sabbath?

  16. Again, it shows the extent that man’s tradition had taken Sabbath prohibitions too far.
    It’s the difference between harvesting and meal preparation (work) and a casual, pleasant stroll and picking a little grain along the way for a snack.

    Having worked in a vineyard, I know there’s a big difference between spending a full day in the sun picking as many grapes as possible, and picking a grape or two to taste during a casual walk through the vineyard.

    This is why Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.

    Marleen, you know why I wrote the “fridge light” article and I can’t help but notice that the man who “inspired” me write it has gone through all kinds of stress and difficulties as he tries to carry out his plan to observe Shabbat. He said he expected it to be a liberating time but found it was the opposite.

  17. I think the person who “inspired” you is perplexed about a lot of things and that his lack of being straight about that or maybe difficulty in recognizing it, which led to him being inconsistent in the way he dealt with you even before (shortly before) this topic came up, probably had more to do with his problems than did some specifics of his approach to the day he thought would be peaceful. I myself have views that don’t have to be opposite his (nor the same). I just think nothing happened to warrant you being excluded from those conversations.

    [Incidentally, I have heard the “only with a meal” idea so many times (like its a rule) that I can fairly say it seems like a Christian tradition. I didn’t want to continue engaging on that and chose to return solely to the main subject.]

  18. Pingback: When scripture is silent… man creates tradition. | Onesimus Files

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