An online article claims these laws are still on the books:
- Young girls are never allowed to walk a tightrope in Wheeler, Mississippi, unless it’s in a church.
- In Blackwater, Kentucky, tickling a woman under her chin with a feather duster while she’s in a church service carries a penalty of $10.00 and one day in jail.
- No one can eat unshelled, roasted peanuts while attending church in Idanha, Oregon.
- In Honey Creek, Iowa, no one is permitted to carry a slingshot to church except a policeman.
- No citizen in Leecreek, Arkansas, is allowed to attend church in any red-colored garment.
- Swinging a yo-yo in church or anywhere in public on the Sabbath is prohibited in Studley, Virginia.
- Turtle races are not permitted within 100 yards of a local church at any time in Slaughter, Louisiana.
If you could create a list of you-can’t-do-this-on-the-Sabbath rules from Jesus’ day, it might read like this:
- Don’t heal a withered hand.
- Don’t relieve a woman’s 12-year long illness.
- Don’t pick and eat grain.
- Don’t carry anything heavier than a dried fig.
- Don’t stray far from your property.
Rules are always designed for someone’s benefit. Then, when pushed too far, they often become abusive and overbearing. When people forget why the rule was made they start enforcing the rule in such a way that it appears if you keep the rule you have succeeded. That becomes legalism. The rule started as a means—it becomes an end instead. That’s not helpful.
What Jesus reminds us of is pretty simple. Keep the means a means and the end an end. The Sabbath (in this text) is designed to bless humanity. People shouldn’t allow it to become something oppressive. Instead, we should live by the “rule behind the rule”: do good and be helpful to all humanity.