Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Linglestown, Pennsylvania, USA
Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
Summer has arrived, and the thoughts of many turn to vacations. While the choice of vacations is quite board, one observation that is commonly heard as people return home is the need to "rest up" from the vacation.
We were created to need a break from work, but we seem to also be a creation that is uncomfortable when we take a break from work. A century ago, this passionate diligence for work was given the title, The Protestant Work Ethic. In the 21st century, many people in North American culture seem to conclude that if they are not exhausted they have failed to do something.
For some people there can ever be religious roots to their guilt about taking a break from intensive living. We need to remember Jesus' remarks to Martha when she became upset that Mary was taking a break from work to listen to Jesus. He tells Martha that she is getting upset over nothing. Just because Martha had chosen to be so hyper was no reason to insist her sister should make the same choice.
Leisure is a part of God's plan for our life. Sometimes the Christian Church has been so focused on work that we have implied that it is evil for people to relax and enjoy themselves. The Bible tells us that it is a worthy goal for us to enjoy the work of their hands. But that does not mean that God expects that our only pleasure should be found in our work.
When people want to relax they are often suspicious that anything they might do to relax, especially if it is fun, is condemned somewhere in the Bible. One author has suggested that the primary way in which many people perceive worship is "...to atone for the good time one had the night before!" The author continues, "God has been understood as commanding us to suppress our desire for most of those experiences which we find intrinsically good in favor of being morally good. And moral goodness has primarily been understood negatively: the suppression of many of the natural forms of enjoyment."
Relaxation is part of the stewardship of our time and of our life. God is not against pleasure. What God opposes is making pleasure the CENTER of our life or pitting our pleasure against his will. We are all familiar with the saying, "Everything that is fun is either immoral, illegal, or fattening." While there is some truth in the statement, it is far from being either absolute OR biblical. The Church has been justifiably concerned about the abuses of pleasure. In its concern it has failed to speak positively about leisure. And in the absence of positive and constructive statements, that part of our lives which provide us with relaxation has often been incorrectly seen by people as a part of life totally unrelated to our Christian faith.
The starting point for rethinking one's attitude about relaxation can be the Bible's stories of creation. The Lord God worked for six days to create, and on the seventh day he rested. There is nothing sacred about being constantly busy.
Rethink the word "recreation." It is more than just going out and having some fun. It is more than fishing or golfing or skiing or puttering in the garden or watching the sun set or countless other things. Recreation is the RE-CREATION of your body. That simple principle can both direct you and support you.
Recreation is not separate from our faith. It describes how we strive to renew ourselves so we can function in the best possible manner. This devotion does not presume to tell you how you should do this. What is refreshment for one person is a frustration to another. Doing something recreational does not automatically make it renewal for you. In the name of recreation, weekends can be more debilitating than week days. You may want to consider something very different than your daily routine.
As plans are made in families, consider what other members need. Maybe Pop needs to get away to fish alone. Maybe the kids need to be with friends their own age for part of their vacation. Make sure you do not assume that Mom would find it renewing to take the children somewhere. Children need to recognize that it can be very renewing for parents to "show them off" to the relatives. The bottom line: help one another in the family on this matter.
We live longer than any generation; the quality of our life is significantly better. But our lives are unnecessarily frantic and tense. Even retirement can be more intense than is good. If your life can best be described as a striving after wind, then you're burning yourself out; you're not living as God intended. The good stewardship of your life and of your body includes times which allow and encourage relaxation and re creation.
God, you have richly blessed us in so many ways. Help us to find the patterns in life that will enable us to regularly renew our lives so we can experience the fullness of your blessings. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen
-- Pastor Mueller