Do we need vacations?

I love to take vacations. Whether it is sight-seeing or just being lazy on a beach somewhere, I find them very refreshing. Maybe you like vacations too. But, do we need vacations? Can we function properly without them? Have you ever felt guilty for taking a vacation, knowing that there are perhaps billions of people around the world who never get one, and that in past centuries, even in this country, vacations were a luxury most couldn't afford?

I have often wrestled with this idea. "Need" is such a strong word. There are few things that we have that we actually need. Most are wants or preferences. So, where do vacations fit in? As a want, a preference, or an actual need? Some people boast that they never take a day off. In our culture of workaholics and chasing our careers, vacations are things some people never take advantage of. Many in my profession of full-time vocational ministry speak of their devotion to the church by never taking a break, always ready to serve. Is that healthy? When that boast was brought up to one of my professors, he responded with, "Do you know better than God?" Here's what he meant.

God designed us to rest. He actually commands us to rest one day in seven each week. This is to be a day where we rest from ordinary work and focus on the Lord. God built this into creation and exemplified it when He rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3). That's like a mini vacation every week. However, God instituted much more than that. In Leviticus 23 we read about several feasts which God commanded to take place each year. During these feasts Israel was to rest and not work, focusing again on the Lord and on celebration. Even beyond that, God told them to set aside one year in seven as a Sabbath year where they were to let the land rest from planting and harvest and trust in God's provision; a whole season of resting from their normal labor.

Did you catch that? As God was instructing His chosen people about their schedule for daily life and work He commanded them to take breaks (vacations) from their normal labor and to rest, sometimes for just a day, other times for a week, and once in a while for several months. So, we can ask again, do we know better than God? If God instituted vacations for His people, should we feel guilty that we take breaks from our normal routines to be refreshed and energized? I think not.

So, for you pastors out there, take a break every once in a while. It's okay. God has shown us by this example that it's okay. Congregations, enable your pastors to take a break. Dare I say it, force us to take time off! Don't overwork us or begrudge us a Sunday off here and there. It isn't healthy to never have time away.

And for you Christians in the pew that faithfully come to church in the midst of your busy weeks, take a break every once in a while. It is okay to rest from work and spend time with family, both the physical family and the church family. Pastors, don't make them feel guilty if they miss a Sunday or take a trip somewhere. It is healthy and refreshing to rest from our normal routine.

Now, this isn't a free pass to never come to church or to not work. God is careful to dictate that this is to be the exception, not the norm. However, I think it is safe to say that we shouldn't feel guilty about going away, hopefully for the purpose of being energized for the work God has for us when we return.


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