As I compiled my notes for today’s show, I was preparing to go on a much anticipated family vacation. That vacation has come and gone in-between when I started working on this episode and when it published.
I mention this because this was a very practical and extremely timely study for me that was both very encouraging and challenging, and I pray that whenever you go on your next holiday, this discussion will be just as valuable for you.
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And now let’s talk about our vacation time.
1. Vacations in the Time of the Bible
I’m sure we can all appreciate that the ancient Jews and early Christians didn’t have any conception of what we now call vacations. The length, the scope, the cost, the thrills, the sheer opulence of our vacations might give a first-century believer a heart-attack.
But the Bible does have a lot to say about rest, rhythms, and even recreation.
Speaking of recreation, these two topics are very closely related, but I am not going to take the time to revisit everything I talked about on our Celebrating God with Recreation episode. But I will slap a link in the description so you can check it out if you missed it before.
Either way, it’s important to start with the understanding that the Bible does not specifically discuss the unique animal that is modern American vacations, holidays, and retreats. But that doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t give us everything we need for life and godliness when we’re on vacation.
So, let’s see what the Bible does have to say.
2. Refreshment is Important on Vacation.
A few episodes back we talked about the Sabbatical year, and we’ll be starting a conversation in the very near future about weekly rhythms of rest, and the topic of recreation and vacation are all part of that biblical concept.
And though there are a lot of passages I could cite in regard to rest, I want to look at two main ones.
The first is Genesis 2:1-3. Every single discussion of rest needs to start here. “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
I know you’re very familiar with this passage, but let’s quickly acknowledge some key points.
A. God did not need to rest. Instead . . .
B. God rested from His work on the last day of the week as an example of how His creation was supposed to live.
C. God also rested to symbolize the experience of faith in Him.
And the rest of the Bible was going to revisit and reinforce this physical and spiritual reality.
The second passage at which I want to look is Mark 6:30. This is a practical, physical example of the need for a break from our work.
Mark 6:30 relates, “The apostles *gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. “
Jesus had sent the disciples out on their first evangelistic crusade. He gave them power over sickness and demons. They preached and healed, and it was all very exciting.
And now they’re returning and telling Jesus all about it.
I can promise you that they likely worked harder in that time than they had preparing for it.
And then in verse 31, Jesus “*said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’”
Then the next verse explains Jesus’ reasoning, “(For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.”
What do we see here?
A. The disciples had worked very hard.
B. God commanded that they vacate.
C. One goal of this vacation was to completely remove themselves from their job.
D. Another goal was to refresh their bodies by resting and eating.
E. We can also assume from this passage and others that this time was also designed for spiritual refreshment. We’ll talk about this point much more in future episodes.
F. In order to achieve this refreshment, they went away to a secluded place by themselves.
Now, we could probably take the balance of the episode to practically apply just what’s been illustrated here for us. But I hope the applications are intuitive.
I am a little concerned by supposed-vacations that leave you less healthy and less rested than you were before you left.
Now, I’m not saying you can’t have a lot of high energy fun, but I do think you need to be wise. My family and I have pretty low-key work responsibilities. We’re not digging ditches or brokering multi-million dollar mergers. So, for us a trip to Universal Studios is definitely in order.
But many American families live such a frenetic, sleepless, constantly busy, caffeine-fueled, adrenaline-pumping life that more of the same does not constitute much of a vacation. In fact, I would argue that people who fit that description do not have healthy, biblical rhythms of rest in their lives.
Now, there’s another passage I think is important to mention at this point in the discussion.
Vacations are super valuable for physical and spiritual reasons, but they’re also important for relational reasons.
Deuteronomy 24:5 says, “When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken.”
Now, it can probably be assumed that this guy wasn’t lying around at home all year with nothing to do. Free at home carries more of the thought that he was free to be home, working with his new wife and family to keep life moving forward. And that is contrasted with being taken away from the home for military service, diplomatic employment, and the like.
But the difference between the practical ancient reality and the practical modern reality is still stark.
First, far too many couples make it a practice to get married right before one or both of them is deployed. I get why they do it. I’m not saying they’re sinning, but I am saying that they’re not going to experience the intense benefit of doing things God’s way.
Second, many newlyweds have their honeymoon and then jump right back into full-on modern employment. Often they’re working over 40 hours a week, they’re traveling for work, and because they’re putting so much emphasis on working as much as they can before they have kids, many of them only have to invest in their new spouse what little leftovers they drag back home with them after work.
But the Scriptures are clear that God desired for His people to have plenty of quality time with their spouses at the very beginning of their marriage.
Now, I know that we don’t live under a theocracy, and I know that money issues are a real thing, but I’m only trying to make the point that the longest and most important ancient vacation was designed to build and strengthen the most important human relationships in existence.
Our modern day vacations can be used to do the exact same thing. We should invest in our families and friends on vacation. We should look for opportunities to do things that bring us together not separate us into isolated self-worship.
But vacations can also be the blessed consequence of hard work.
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says, “I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; 13 moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.”
It’s the gift of God that the arduous work to which He calls us should have an enjoyable payout in the end. This is true physically and spiritually. Vacations can and should be the natural experience of having completed a job well done.
I’ll mention this again later, but this point needs to help us put appropriate boundaries on our vacations. If our employment pays for our vacations, then there isn’t wisdom in spending too much on our vacations.
Now, other than the observations we’ve made that mankind is designed by God to need rest, and that proper rest allows us to escape work, refresh ourselves physically, refresh ourselves spiritually, and refresh ourselves relationally, and the fact that that enjoying the fruits of our labors is the natural blessing of having worked, the Bible doesn’t have too much else specifically to say about vacations.
But there are a ton of principles that need to be applied to our vacations as they are to be applied to every other area of our lives.
3. Godliness is Important on Vacation.
A. Your vacation must please the Lord.
Colossians 3:17 commands, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” This obviously applies to vacations as well.
Getaways are not for us to get away from God’s expectations for our lives. In fact, it’s God’s expectations for our rest, refreshment, and recreation that gives our vacationing real purpose and value.
I think meditating on this one concept will absolutely revolutionize how you approach and experience your vacations whether you’re single or have a family.
Before I move to our next point, let me mention church attendance.
I’m not saying that missing one Sunday because of vacation is definitely a sin. However, I believe it can be. I also believe that an attitude that isn’t even trying to assemble with God’s people over the course of multiple weeks reveals that worshipping God on vacation really isn’t that important to us.
I know. You may have to pack “church clothes.” You may have to do the research to find a Christ-honoring church where you’ll be. But doesn’t the annoyance or bothersome feeling that we experience when considering these reveal that engaging in corporate sanctification and weekly worship of God just isn’t as important to us as what we want?
Now, full disclosure. My family is going to be away from Friday through Tuesday. We already know there isn’t a good church where we’ll be going, and Sunday’s schedule is going to make it very hard to travel the distance necessary to get to a good church.
But I have a plan for intentional family worship in its place. Is this the best plan for a “normal” week? Nope. Is virtual church a replacement for physical church? Nope. But can we glorify God this one time on this one particular short getaway designed to worship God in other ways? Definitely.
Listen, I don’t want to promote empty legalism or unbiblical expectations. The point is, what is your point?
If a vacation is your opportunity to escape God’s expectations on your life, you have some serious issues.
So, God’s glory must be the ultimate goal of our vacation, that means that conversely, we mustn’t live for vacations.
B. Your vacation must not be the main goal.
Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The vast majority of individuals in 1st World Countries absolutely live for the weekends and live for their vacations. In many ways, the only reason they have the job is so that they can afford to get away from the job.
But by making the vacation our ultimate source of happiness, we’re stealing what belongs to God and giving it to a temporal experience that cannot satisfy us the way He can.
In fact, suicides increase shortly after holidays and vacations. These people worked all year for this one experience, but when it was over, and they were faced with going back to work, and they had spent too much money and made poor decisions, so many people just don’t want to do it any more.
Vacation is also a time that people make really bad choices. They get in trouble with the law. They hurt their health. They get videoed doing something that ruins their testimony.
Consider II Samuel 11. Verse 1 tells us that it was the custom of kings to go to battle in the spring time, but David stayed home. His forces were at war, but he was at home. And we all know what happened with Bathsheba and Uriah.
David wasn’t using his time off in order to please the Lord. He was using it for his own carnal pleasure.
By all means, yes, take a vacation. Enjoy that vacation. Look forward to that vacation. Soak it for all it’s worth, but it must stay in its lane. We worship God by taking vacations.
Remember that. I took my family on a vacation as an act of worship to God. My family was submitting to our cycles of work and rest, we grew in our relationship with each other, we tried to focus on Him and praise Him and thank Him and live for Him every day of the vacation. Now, we didn’t do it perfectly. And I can promise you that the absolute worst parts of our vacation were the times that we made our own personal enjoyment our main goal. That’s when selfishness and chaos ensued.
But joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness only flourish in submission to the Spirit.
By all means, vacation, but make sure your vacation as an act of worship to God.
Now, let’s get more specific about how our vacations can be that sacrifice of worship.
C. Your vacation must be a Christ-honoring use of time.
Ephesians 5:15-17 commands us, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
And Psalm 90:12, says “So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”
Wise living is taking what we know and understand and living in submission to what we know and understand to be true.
It is not pleasing to the Lord for the average person to spend more time resting than they’re to spend working.
How much time is too much time? Honestly, I can’t say. It’s not laid out in Scripture. Yes, the basic 6-to-1 ratio is God’s expectation for our physical and spiritual and relational well-being. But there are other examples of taking additional time. For example, in addition to the weekly Sabbath, the Jews had up to 20 additional sabbath observations throughout the year.
Well, 21 days is 3 weeks. Could we say that an additional 3 weeks of vacation time per year is a reasonable amount?
Sure. But we could also argue fewer or more depending on the circumstance.
The point is, if we’re vacationing for God and not only for us, then we’re going to use our earthly time in the most Christ-honoring way possible.
And that means that . . .
D. Your vacation must not be a product of laziness.
Proverbs 24:30-34 reads, “I passed by the field of the sluggard And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense, 31 And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; Its surface was covered with nettles, And its stone wall was broken down. 32 When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction. 33 ‘A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest,’ 34 Then your poverty will come as a robber And your want like an armed man.”
And II Thessalonians 3:11-12 says, “For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.”
Christ-honoring rest is not laziness. It’s intentional. It’s pleasing to the Lord. Laziness is what happens when God would be pleased by our working, but we don’t.
E. Your vacation must be financially wise.
Again, a Christ-honoring vacation may likely cost something — maybe even a pretty penny. That’s okay. We work — in part — so that we can enjoy the blessings of work. But we must make sure that we’re not going into debt for a vacation. If we’re borrowing money for a vacation, then it’s clearly not a reward of our work.
Also, our vacation should not take money away from things that the Bible says are more important. I Timothy 5:8 warns that “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Count the cost. Be wise.
F. Your vacation isn’t an excuse to stop one-anothering.
I don’t get a break from parenting, discipleship, and one-anothering on vacation. My responsibility to my God and the other people in my life compel me to love them. Romans 13:8 says, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”
I can’t ignore the spiritual best interest of those around me and claim to actually love them.
G. Your vacation isn’t an excuse to sin against God with your food.
On our last episode we started laying out a doctrine of worshipping God with our food and drink. You can listen to that episode for many more principles and verses.
And yes, it is appropriate to feast on vacation, but we still need to make sure that we are intentionally doing what we’re doing for the glory of God.
Hangovers, upset stomachs, sickness because of poor food choices, unhealthy weight gain, and the like are all signs that God was probably not ultimately pleased by the quantity and quality of what you consumed.
And we could go on and on with every other Fruit of the Spirit and command of God.
Whether it’s patience or kindness or integrity or purity or peace or joy or prayer . . . we don’t get a pass because it’s vacation.
Now, generally I encounter a couple different responses to this information.
On one side, those who love God say, “Yeah, duh. Obviously. Of course, I need to glorify God with my vacation. I love vacationing as an act of worship to God.”
But then there are Christians who actually recoil. They scrunch up their noses and furrow their brows at the idea of pleasing the Lord and obeying His commands on their vacations.
This reaction is a gracious revelation of your own heart. No true disciple of God should be annoyed or repulsed by the idea of living for His Lord.
Yes, we all sin; yes, we all call God a liar and offer our various life choices on the altar to self. But — when faced by our sin — genuine believers will confess and apologize and repent by the power of God.
Those who completely dislike the idea of following Christ on vacation probably aren’t really following Christ during any other part of their lives either.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so that more of God’s people can be encouraged and equipped to worship Him with their vacations.
And join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing the various opportunities we have to worship God in June.
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AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.