Q&A: What are blue laws?

What are blue laws?

Question

What are the blue laws? I can't buy alcohol on Sundays where I live. Why does God always mess these things up?

Answer

Blue laws reportedly originated in Puritan New England. They were originally formed to help regulate and protect the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship. Rev. Samuel Peters (1735-1826) used the phrase "blue laws" in his 1781 book called the General History of Connecticut (New-Haven, republished by Clark and Co., Baldwin and Threadway, 1829) to describe the various Puritan laws that prohibited commerce and entertainment on the Sabbath (Saturday evening through Sunday night).

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word "blue" was used in the 17th century as a disparaging reference to rigid moral codes and those who observed them.[1] Though upheld by many courts in the land for decades, the U.S. has now relaxed most of its blue laws, but a few states still restrict the sale of alcohol and even automobiles on Sunday.

This said, the blue laws are/were an unbiblical attempt to honor the fourth commandment (Exod. 20:8). God's law included rest on the Sabbath as part of his covenant with his people (Exod. 31:13). They were unbiblical as their origin was not with God. They were an addition to his law. (See, "What is meaning of Mark 2:27-28?" below.) Moreover, though some blue laws prohibit the purchase of alcohol on Sundays, the Lord's Supper was celebrated with real wine (cf. 1 Cor. 11:20-21). In the Old Testament wine was considered a covenant blessing (Gen. 27:28; Deut. 7:13; 11:14; 33:28). It was even an acceptable offering to God (Num. 15:5, 7, 10).

So, God didn't mess things up. It was misinterpretation and misapplication of Scripture by some well-meaning people that originated the blue laws, and elected officials kept them in effect for a long time, even in some places today.

[1] Blue Law and Legal Definition. (https://definitions.uslegal.com/b/blue/). Last Accessed 4 August 2018.

Related Topics

What is meaning of Mark 2:27-28?
Is the Sabbath Saturday or Sunday?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).