Selling Online and Sabbath Keeping

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TexanRose

Puritan Board Sophomore
How does one keep the Sabbath while selling online?

I have a couple of shops online selling various vintage and handmade items. The site where I sell is, like most shopping sites, up and running 24/7. However, if I want to prevent sales at a given time, I can put my shop into "vacation mode."

A complicating factor is that I do sell and ship items around the world.

There are a few ways I could handle this.
1. Leave my shops up and running 24/7, the justification being that even if I made a sale on the Sabbath, I wouldn't technically be doing any work until Monday morning, when I would package up and ship the item. Since I am offline on the Sabbath, I wouldn't even be aware of the sale, or thinking about it, on the Sabbath.
*I'm not comfortable with this one, because while I wouldn't technically be doing any work, I would be enabling others to break the Sabbath by purchasing my items; and I would be receiving their funds on the Sabbath.
2. Shut down my shops Saturday night before bed and re-open them on Monday morning. This is what I've generally done in the past. This way I'm not making sales on *my* Sabbath. However, if I sell something Saturday evening to someone on the other side of the world, then I'm enabling them to break *their* Sabbath. Since international sales are less common, this hasn't happened, but it could.
3. Shut down my shops for the whole period of time that the Sabbath is taking place anywhere in the world (which would entail some looking up of time zones and some head-scratching). This way I would be quite sure that I am not involved in any Sabbath-breaking whatsoever. However, I would also be preventing sales that wouldn't have been a violation of the Sabbath in any way.

Any thoughts? Selling things online is a nice way for this broke single mom to earn a little money on the side, but I don't want to violate the law of God in doing so. Sabbath keeping gets a lot more complicated in a global economy!
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
Just by the fact you are even considering these implications, shows that your heart desires the right things. I believe this is what God is most concerned with. Personally, I would opt for option 2. If you conscience is still bothered by it, perhaps you could write up some kind of disclaimer explaining your convictions and politely ask people to refrain from making purchases until the Lord's Day is passed. If they choose to ignore your request, then that is their choice. I fully believe you are doing everything in your power to glorify God with your desires and intentions.
 

TexanRose

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hi Andrew--thanks for the input. I've seen a disclaimer like that on a site run by a Jewish family. On the checkout page was a notice that said something like "A day of rest, a Sabbath request: please refrain from purchasing between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday." However, on Etsy.com (the site where I sell things) I don't have the option of putting any notes on the checkout page. I could put something in the shop announcement, or on my "policies" page, but I doubt that the average buyer reads those before purchasing. Or I could put a note into each and every listing...I would have to think about how to do that exactly.

---------- Post added at 05:58 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:57 PM ----------

Is there a way for your site automatically to make something available or unavailable according to the site visitor's I.P. Address origin?

No, Josh, I don't have that ability.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
Neh 13:19 As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day.

He didn't ask whether they'd paid a man to load the carts on the Sabbath. Shutting down your store for two days out of 7 is a virtuous idea given your motive, but it violates the Commandment you're trying to keep, in that it's fencing the Law.
 

Theoretical

Puritan Board Professor
This major professional photography seller in New York always blocks sales during the Jewish Sabbath or Jewish holidays. They take option two.

B&H Photo Video Digital Cameras, Photography, Camcorders

You might check how they approach it on their site after 5 PM EST on Friday.

Also, major kudos to you for desiring to honor the Sabbath in an age where most are baffled at why someone wouldn't take the money Sunday sales bring.
 

AThornquist

Puritan Board Doctor
Shutting down your store for two days out of 7 is a virtuous idea given your motive, but it violates the Commandment you're trying to keep, in that it's fencing the Law.

I'm not sure if I know what you mean here. Would you explain what it means to fence the Law, please?
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
Hey, Andrew

First, I also am (as always) super proud of Sharon for the reasons mentioned above.

To fence the law is to make it stricter, often or even usually out of a good motive so as not to break it. So, if Moses allowed 40 lashes, if you come along and only allow 39 it's much less likely you'll slip up and deliver 41.
 

AThornquist

Puritan Board Doctor
Ah, okay. Thank you. And it is a violation of the 2nd Commandment to fence the law in this way? Would you explain that too, if you don't mind?
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
In Muslim art pictures of any humans are traditionally banned, and I think that a fair example. I'd say Christians that ban doves etc.. are doing the same thing, but that's just an opinion.
 

AThornquist

Puritan Board Doctor
I read my post again and meant the 4th Commandment, as in the context of this thread. How did a 2 get there? :p
 

TexanRose

Puritan Board Sophomore
Sharon, I know of a few web sites/stores that shut down for the sabbath:
The James Begg Society
Peter & Rachel Reynolds Books
The Free Presbyterian Bookroom
(Note: I think these are the ones, but of course I can't verify today.)

Perhaps you could contact the proprietors of these websites and find out what they've used for their sites.

Thanks Bryan. I will ask Peter and Rachel, and the FP Bookroom, how they shut their sites down for the Sabbath.

However, since I am selling not on my own website but on a third-party selling site (Etsy.com), my options are limited.
 

puritanpilgrim

Puritan Board Junior
Neh 13:19 As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day.

Maybe you should just practice it based up the setting of the sun in Jerusalem.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
You are to be commended for being conscientious about this. God blesses obedience.

As others have indicated, option 2 seems the best biblical application.

As has been suggested by Andres, a note on your website explaining that you close on Sunday would be helpful.

Really, I would look at this as a ministry opportunity. The web site could have a semi-prominent posting "All things must rest" closed Sunday. Then have a link or two people could go to if they are interested or curious, maybe a couple of layers to more fully understand the Christian sabbath, which is called the Lord's Day- maybe even a testimony. Mine would include a grandfather who God used to model something of this for me.

This can all be done without being overbearing, sounding "legalist," or like a member of a sect. If based on interest driving the web surfer, it will be ignored for those only needing to know there would be a break in business processing on Sunday.

It should be efficient, like any good business.

The key is all in the wording.

This would make me more likely to buy from a web site.
 

Tripel

Puritan Board Senior
I'd go with option #1. I don't see how this is any different than someone who operates an entertainment-themed website or blog. If I run a sports blog, am I required by Scripture to take down my website on Sunday so that nobody will read it? I certainly don't think so.
 

TexanRose

Puritan Board Sophomore
To fence the law is to make it stricter, often or even usually out of a good motive so as not to break it. So, if Moses allowed 40 lashes, if you come along and only allow 39 it's much less likely you'll slip up and deliver 41.

I thought about this and I would have to disagree. I'm not just trying to fence the law by extending the Sabbath; I'm trying to avoid actual Sabbath transactions. (In case it's not clear, I believe buying and selling on Sunday to be a violation of the Sabbath.)

If a given financial transaction violates the Sabbath, do I really want to participate in that transaction? Even passively?

It seems to me that to allow other people to purchase my items on their Sabbath day would be like saying "Well *I* don't do commerce on the Sabbath, but if *you* want to do commerce on the Sabbath, I'll happily take your money." Not really the message that I want to send...
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
I'd go with option #1. I don't see how this is any different than someone who operates an entertainment-themed website or blog. If I run a sports blog, am I required by Scripture to take down my website on Sunday so that nobody will read it? I certainly don't think so.

The difficulty, looking at the broad application of the fourth commandment, is it means not causing others to work or seek recreation- that's part of "loving your neighbor," allowing them to rest. One really can't "make" them rest.

While it is difficult applying this to every time zone in the world, my inclination is I don't think it's necessary for one to abstain for two sabbath's (local time) because someone potentially might, on the other side of the world, try to transact business on their time zone's sabbath. The principle is a due proportion, 1/7 of time, to "cease" from the ordinary work and recreation of the rest of the week. Remember, the first part of commandment four is- work six.

Now it's difficult in a virtual environment with unlimited access, but, in good faith, one tries.

It's analogous to some of the forums that close on the Lord's Day. There's some judgment calls, and while we can only do so imperfectly, we make them with the objective (honoring God) in mind.

We care about His glory.

We pray that the glory of His sabbath day would not be blotted out from the earth.

We also know that God has graciously established mercy and necessity exceptions as part of His command.

If it is primarily focused on work or entertaining, it gets an announcement for a rest. This creates awareness, eliminates activity that can be controlled, and leaves what really cannot be controlled, knowing that you have made witness.

This is important in a commerce environment, as in any other.
 

Tripel

Puritan Board Senior
It's analogous to some of the forums that close on the Lord's Day.

Right. But what about forums like Sports or Entertainment and Humor which are closed for comment, but open to reading? How is that any different? There are several threads on this website that are nothing but sheer entertainment, so isn't it very possible for people (in your interpretation of the 4th commandment) to break the Sabbath via the Puritan Board?

(and I should point out that I am not questioning the policy of the PB. I'm questioning the idea that we must do all possible to prevent giving others an avenue to break a commandment)
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
It's analogous to some of the forums that close on the Lord's Day.

Right. But what about forums like Sports or Entertainment and Humor which are closed for comment, but open to reading? How is that any different? There are several threads on this website that are nothing but sheer entertainment, so isn't it very possible for people (in your interpretation of the 4th commandment) to break the Sabbath via the Puritan Board?

(and I should point out that I am not questioning the policy of the PB. I'm questioning the idea that we must do all possible to prevent giving others an avenue to break a commandment)

It seems to me that to allow other people to purchase my items on their Sabbath day would be like saying "Well *I* don't do commerce on the Sabbath, but if *you* want to do commerce on the Sabbath, I'll happily take your money." Not really the message that I want to send...

I think that Daniel has a valid point. How far can we be expected to go to prevent others from sin? I don't tell my wife she looks too pretty when we leave the house. She does choose to dress modestly, but she is still a very attractive woman. I don't think God holds her accountable if men would choose to lust after her. Just the same, I don't believe God would hold me accountable if someone broke into my house and stole my TV. Yes, I have a nice television, but it's not my fault if they want it so badly they sin. My point is we can only do so much to not tempt, provoke, or encourage others in sin. After that point, if they still choose sin, then the sinner is accountable, not us.
This is why I mentioned in my earlier post that I believed Sharon's heart was in the right place with her desires. I truly believe God will honor that. Sharon, I think if you place the disclaimer explaining your convictions and preferences, then others would know where you stand. If they still choose to shop, then no you are not "happily taking their money", rather they are going against your wishes, which have been made clear to them.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Daniel,

It is possible that people will break God's commandments using one's actions (as secondary causes in the Westminster sense) no matter what those actions are. Especially when one understands breaking them is by thought, word and deed.

One also ought not overlook the mercy and necessity aspects that are established in the command- it helps to understand it all the more.

One can't "make" someone keep a commandment because we don't have that full control. We can, by God's grace, try to keep it ourselves, lead by example, and witness that, trusting God to use it as He sees fit, both in our lives and in lives of others.

On one level, that might actually seem to lead to less business, maybe even suffer a little for that witness.

But not really.

The original post shows evidence of someone clearly trying to do what is right. And God blesses that.

But the potentiality of someone doing commerce on the other side of the world in their sabbath time zones would, in effect, require the person to observe two sabbath's (ceasing for 48 hours+), which is not the heart of the command.

With the example you use, which is not the subject of this post, yes, it is a violation of the holiness of sabbath to seek recreation and entertainment on the Lord's Day, and the Confessions summarize the doctrine of Scripture to be this, because God does (really) command His creatures to rest from them.
 

Zenas

Snow Miser
I really don't think there is a command to make sure that people who are not under your authority or control keep the Sabbath. I mean, if you run a business that employs people, you're not supposed to make them work on the Sabbath. You don't go to their house and make sure they're not doing yard work though or buying things online.
 

TexanRose

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don't believe God would hold me accountable if someone broke into my house and stole my TV. Yes, I have a nice television, but it's not my fault if they want it so badly they sin. My point is we can only do so much to not tempt, provoke, or encourage others in sin. After that point, if they still choose sin, then the sinner is accountable, not us.

I'm trying to see this from a non-religious buyer's point of view. Wouldn't they think "If you don't want me to buy your items today, why is your shop open?"

I'm concerned that having my shop up and running is inviting people to violate the Sabbath a bit more directly than having a nice TV is inviting someone to steal it.

Though I guess if I was sure that people would actually *read* the disclaimer, I would be more comfortable going that route.
 

TexanRose

Puritan Board Sophomore
But the potentiality of someone doing commerce on the other side of the world in their sabbath time zones would, in effect, require the person to observe two sabbath's (ceasing for 48 hours+), which is not the heart of the command.

Well, I wouldn't be ceasing from work for 48 hours, I would be shutting down my shop for 48 hours. I would certainly continue to work a full day on Saturday and Monday as usual.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
I'm trying to see this from a non-religious buyer's point of view. Wouldn't they think "If you don't want me to buy your items today, why is your shop open?"

I don't neccessarily think buyers would think that way, but I guess it's possible. It would be different if an actual physical store were open, and the owner tried to tell people not to shop. That is completely silly and hypocritical so your point makes total sense, I just relate things to how I would think, and to be honest, I had never even considered that owners would or could shut down online shopping on the the Lord's Day. I choose not to shop online during that time, but I always assumed the possibility was there. I have now learned something new. :)
Finally, I agree completely with Josh that you should follow your conscience, so do whatever you feel most comfortable with and I am confident your business will be fine.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Well, I wouldn't be ceasing from work for 48 hours, I would be shutting down my shop for 48 hours. I would certainly continue to work a full day on Saturday and Monday as usual.

All the previous points would still seem to apply.

It's an interesting concept though, "shutting down" on the internet for what would be 48 hours, similar to what people do who work a 40 hour five day workweek, with Saturday and Sunday off.

But to do that only to possibly prevent someone from engaging commerce on the sabbath, does not seem to be a requirement of the Command (four).

One way to understanding what God reveals to His people:

1) commands
2) principles
3) convictions

The latter might be things that God calls a particular person to as part of their more unique circumstance in life, or God's call on that person's life.

It's difficult to see a 48 hour close as something required to keep the sabbath as any these.

If it were the latter, a conviction, even then we need to be careful not to make that a command for all creatures. Those require special care, and maturity to not bind men's conscience outside the Word... I think.:2cents:
 
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TexanRose

Puritan Board Sophomore
Just realized I'm kind of coming across like one of those people who post asking for advice when they've really got their minds made up already. :) While I did start off leaning towards option #3, I am still open to advice, and have not yet made up my mind what I will do. For now, this weekend, I am sticking with what I've usually done by shutting down my shop Saturday night and re-opening Monday morning. I'll continue to think about this next week. Thanks for all the feedback!
 

FCC

Puritan Board Freshman
Sharon,
My son has a fishing lure site on Etsy.com too. We put a disclaimer at the top of his page which states, "No Sabbath sales." I am not aware of any way to shut the shop down on a given day on etsy, but I may have missed something too. Please let us know if you do find something that allows that and we will certainly shut ours down on the Sabbath too.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Maybe there's a app or setting to allow setting closer times?
It may come down to having to run your own site. The cart software I use with Wordpress fairly easily accommodates shutting down; but it still needs manually attending, so I sometimes forget. Happily given the clientele rarely does an order get by.
This raises a question though. Would it be wrong for a Christian to have a vending machine business? That pretty much is up to the users when they access and get items and I cannot imagine there's a way to shut them down for Lord's days.
 

Tripel

Puritan Board Senior
Would it be wrong for a Christian to have a vending machine business?

No. It's not the responsibility of the Christian to make sure others don't break the Sabbath.

These kinds of questions could go on and on all day. Is it wrong to post something on Craigslist? After all, what if someone reads that post on Sunday? Is it wrong to write for a magazine? After all, what if someone reads that magazine on a Sunday?
It gets tired.
 

Montanablue

Puritan Board Doctor
Sharon,
My son has a fishing lure site on Etsy.com too. We put a disclaimer at the top of his page which states, "No Sabbath sales." I am not aware of any way to shut the shop down on a given day on etsy, but I may have missed something too. Please let us know if you do find something that allows that and we will certainly shut ours down on the Sabbath too.

Just a practical note. I would imagine most people seeing a note asking for not "Sabbath sales" are going to think you are Jewish and don't want them to buy on a Saturday. I would probably say "No Sunday Sales please" or something along those lines.
 
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