by Tad Lindley
2018 marked a strange departure from normal fishing management on the Kuskokwim River. For the first time in at least the last 24 years, but probably ever, fishing was closed all week except for Sunday. This forced many people to choose between church or fishing. Originally I ran this column in 2006. In light of the current Federal management strategy, I offer it again for your reading.
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The young man said, “I wish I had been born in Qugyugnek [name changed to protect the innocent]. Then I could go hunting on Sunday.” You see the village he lived in did not permit hunting on Sundays.
When my grandmother grew up, they did as little work as possible on Sunday. They would even split Sunday’s firewood on Saturday. The State of Ohio where I grew up actually had Sunday closures for hunting.
Where does it come from?
In the Old Testament, the Lord commanded the people to remember the Sabbath. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God in it thou shalt not do any work…(Deuteronomy 20:9-10) The Israelites were also commanded to let their farmland rest every seventh year (Deuteronomy 23:10-12). The penalty in the Old Testament for breaking this rule was death (see Numbers 15:30-36). Across history, many churches have attempted to obey this command, by declaring Sunday a day of worship and rest.
Sunday is not the Sabbath
The only problem with this is that the Sabbath is Saturday. In fact some organizations hold church on Saturday for that reason. If we want to follow the Old Testament, we would actually have to close hunting and fishing on Saturday, and open it on Sunday.
What does the Bible say?
The New Testament teaches us this: One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. (Romans 14:5-6, NIV) This means that it is my right as a Christian to pick one day of the week as special above all others. It also tells me that I do not have the right to criticize other people if they do it differently.
I personally do not hunt or fish on Sunday. It was a decision that I made when I was married. My wife’s family chooses to uphold Sunday. In spite of “losing” one day a week of hunting time, the Lord has prospered us and we have never gone hungry.
Once I went logging on Sunday after morning church. I was racing to make the 6:00 service. When I burst through the doors of the church, the people were already singing and praising Him. I sat down up front and closed my eyes. All I could see was logs floating across the backs of my eyelids. When I am in church, I want to focus on Jesus. So in exercising my right concerning Sundays, I personally avoid subsistence.
The following people should not hunt on Sunday
Even though the Bible gives us liberty to choose whether we make Saturday or Sunday special there are still people who should not hunt or fish on Sunday. These are situations under which we might not have the power of choice:
1.) If the village laws forbid hunting on Sunday. The Bible teaches us that we are subject unto the higher powers (Romans 13:1). This is a command from the Lord for us to follow the law of the land.
2.) If our pastor has asked us not to practice subsistence on Sunday. If that bothers you, then when God makes you pastor, you can change it. Until then, Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (Romans 13:1)
3.) When hunting will cause us to miss church services. The Bible teaches us not skip church (Hebrews 10:25). We are free to go after morning service and before evening service, but if we believe the Bible is from God, we will not skip church (good place to say amen). An exception to this would be a trip, where you are sleeping out on the tundra.
But the king eiders are only here for a few days and…
…my freezer’s looking empty. It is always better to trust the Lord than to lean upon our own wisdom. If God has placed us in a village that forbids hunting on Sunday, and we choose to obey Him, then He will provide for us. It might be on Saturday or on Monday, or even weeks away, but He will provide. Not only that, he will provide for us better than we would have provided for ourselves. We can never go wrong by following Jesus.
If you have the liberty to fish and hunt on Sundays, enjoy it. If you do not, don’t be discouraged. Enjoy hunting and fishing the other six days, and set Sunday apart for the Lord. He will see your heart and honor it. And He will see your freezer and fill it!
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.