Don’t Work to Vacation – Vacation to Work!
What is the dream life? Early retirement and leisure? 10 weeks vacation? Plenty of time to do what you want? A friend of mine joined a mom’s group about a year ago, and observed that the most frequent topic of conversation was where each family would spend their next vacation.
Last week, I wrote about what God says concerning vacation. Periods of rest and refreshment are not merely recommended or advised, but indeed are commanded in God’s word. It says that God gives the gift of sleep to the ones he loves. Although God does not tire or get weary, he rested on the 7th day as an example for us.
Even so, I think that most of us today err on the side of valuing leisure too much. Many of us work hard so that we can vacation. But it should really be the other way around – we should vacation so that we can work hard.
Our View of Work is too Small
The Bible begins with God making man to rule over the world. To subdue it, to study it, to engage in science (Gen 2:18-20), to engage in culture making (Gen 1:28), and to order the world. In Genesis 4:20-22, God records the creation of the first musical instruments and advances in metalworking.
Work is the primary call upon a person’s life. This was the great truth reclaimed 500 years ago by Luther, when he de-mystified Christianity by reclaiming the value of ALL work. Before Luther, it was only the monks, priests, and nuns who did God’s work. But Luther, reading the Bible, said, “God feeds the world milk through the hands of the milk maid.” The Puritans carried on this tradition, emphasizing the importance of work training for their children from a young age.
Work in our world can be an expression of selfish ambition. A way to get ahead, to differentiate yourself from others, to make a name for yourself, to get rich, etc. But it need not be that way. Work to the Christian need be nothing more than fulfilling the great commandment. Loving God – by using your gifts to order the world more righteously, and loving others – by using your gifts for the betterment of those around you.
Let us not seek to escape from work, but to enter into it with all of our mind and strength, to the glory of God and the love of those around us.
Our View of Leisure is too Great
The flip side of this coin is that our view of leisure is too great. The world constantly markets to us the good life. “Find your beach.” “Want to get away?” “The Happiest Place on Earth.” If we buy into what’s being sold here, we will think that most of life is meaningless toil simply to have a little bit of fun in between. One time, a fisherman told me he calculated how many more times he could go fishing in his life before he died. It made him sad to think of it. Perhaps what is sadder is that we would only find meaning in a small part of our leisure time, instead of the bulk of what we do 40+ hours per week.
Leisure does not satisfy. If you look at the lives of the rich, you will find that many of them have arrived at sufficient wealth to spend life in constant leisure. However, they know that is ultimately boring and unfulfilling. That’s why you have Barb Corcoran or Robert Herjavec on Shark Tank trying to help others fulfill their dreams. That’s why people like Bill Gates spend their time trying to do good work in Africa. I received a scholarship from the founders of Generac brand generators, who after building a fortune through hard work then invested themselves in the lives of countless young students in engineering and the pastorate. They are still going as strong as they can at age 90.
Ultimately, happiness isn’t about what you get. It’s about what you give. Jesus explained this when he said, “Those who gain their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Let’s listen to him and seek to give ourselves away to God and others, and remember that our work might be the most important way we do this.