More than 20 million pilgrims will make the journey this year to the Magic Kingdom. They will put on mouse ears, pull on matching Mickey t-shirts, and spend thousands of dollars in “the happiest place on earth.” While they enjoy a week of pleasure and pampering, nearly one-third of the world’s population survives on less than two dollars a day. The contrast is shocking and compels the follower of Christ to evaluate the cultural acceptance of costly vacations. Should a Christian spend significant time and money on vacation?
There is no single verse of Scripture which answers this question; taking a vacation is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments. Although the modern vacation is far removed from the cultural context of the New Testament, God’s Word has much to say about how we view our resources and affections. As creatures and as Christians, we are not on our own, but belong, both body and soul, to God (1 Cor. 6:19–20). Our time and treasure are gifts from God to be used for His purpose as His stewards (1 Peter 4:10). Therefore, we must consider how vacation fits into our calling to be good stewards of God’s gifts. I want to propose two areas of stewardship that directly affect how Christians should think about vacations.
1. Steward Your Affections
Our affections not only reflect God’s image but testify to the transforming power of the gospel. The gift of God’s grace has altered what we love, and that should be evident in how we look at vacation. Many people live for vacation. They spend all year planning for their cruise, their beach trip, or their week at Disney. When life is challenging and circumstances threaten to overwhelm them, they look to their coming vacation as a way of escape. It becomes to them a mighty fortress and a shelter from the difficulties of life. As Christians, vacation must never replace Christ in our affections. He, not a getaway, is our shield and strong tower. When considering a vacation, do we view it as rest or rescue? Is it a God-given opportunity to recharge or the one thing that can keep us from total destruction?
For those who don’t know Christ, vacation can take on a god-like role in their affections. Vacation, not Jesus, becomes the hope that sustains. Christians should be aware of the powerful pull of pleasure, and how easily our affections are turned away from the Giver of joy and toward the gifts. When planning a vacation, we need to consider how this planned trip will impact our affection for Christ. Is it pushing us toward Him or pulling us from Him? Is this vacation a functional savior, rescuing us from the difficulty and drudgery of life? Or is it a gift from Christ which helps us rest and recharge for continued service to Him?
2. Steward Your Resources
It’s difficult to take a cheap family vacation. Transportation, food, lodging, and entertainment costs add up quickly. Plus, every dollar we spend could be given to the poor or put in the offering plate. Is it wrong to spend money on something so “unspiritual” as an amusement park ticket or a Broadway show? Understanding our role as a steward helps us determine what is wise and appropriate. Our money does not belong to us, but to our master, which means the primary purpose of what we have been given is to further His work.
What takes priority in your spending? Is it saving for the annual trip or supporting gospel work through your local church? Certainly, the master’s money should first be spent on accomplishing the master’s mission, and Jesus’ first priority is caring for His bride. If you find yourself spending more money for your trip than you give to your church, something’s wrong.
One way to evaluate both your affections and your spending is to determine your willingness to sacrifice. In order to pay for a vacation, some people will sacrifice time by working extra hours or taking a part-time job. They will sacrifice weekly coffee and going out to eat in order to save enough to afford the trip of a lifetime. Some will even sacrifice their future by putting it all on a credit card. What sacrifices do you make to afford that vacation? Now compare it to the sacrifices you make to bless others and fund the spread of the gospel. What have you sacrificed so others can see and hear about God’s grace? If your resources really do belong to Jesus, then the sacrifices we make should be to accomplish His mission.
Christians should not be afraid to enjoy rest and celebrate God’s goodness, to take a break from labor and delight in the beauty of God’s world, to strengthen relationships through undistracted time together. The same God who “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Ti. 6:17) also commanded His people to participate in numerous annual feasts and festivals because they needed a break from physical labor, and they needed time to rejoice in His provision. Vacation can be that time for the Christian; it can be a much-needed rest from work, a time to make special memories, and an annual opportunity to celebrate the goodness of God. If we wisely steward our affections and resources, vacation be an act of worship. But only if we view everything as belonging to Jesus. When you make plans for your next vacation, don’t seek first the Magic Kingdom, seek first the kingdom of God.