Once again it is the time when most people are thinking about the family vacation. With the temperature rising and the children home from school, the summer months will find many families going on vacation.
It seems that vacations are more feasible for us today than ever before. The financial ability to go on a vacation is much greater today than in the years of our grandparents and great-grandparents. Also, there was a time when a week-long vacation was average. Today it is more common to hear of two or three weeks being the length of time the father is able to get off from his work.
We hear more about vacations because of the age in which we live. Emphasis is increasingly being placed upon pleasure. In times past it could be said that everyone was work-oriented. Today we are more pleasure-oriented. We seek to satisfy our desires for pleasure. Our children are raised with that emphasis thrown at them from every side. This due much to the affluency of our age. This affluence enables one to satisfy his desires for pleasure. Much money is spent specifically for vacations. A walk through a campground or a ride past motels in a resort area and a tally of the equipment and “no vacancy” signs in terms of dollars and cents will bear out this fact. The question of proper stewardship then arises. Where must be drawn the line which if exceeded would be improper stewardship? The head of each family should ,not neglect to face this question of stewardship. Each must consider it and satisfactorily answer it for himself. That this question can be for the most part satisfactorily answered, I have no doubt. Nor do I doubt that in some instances the conscience will twinge when it is seen what percentage of the total income is spent on the vacation.
Far be it from us to condemn vacations as such. For the most part, they are beneficial, and for some are even necessary. The strain which our very busy life puts upon us is great. As time is taken to behold the wonders of God’s creative hand, this strain is relaxed.
It is often said after one gets back to work, that one is less busy at work than while on vacation. Though to my mind that is not the ideal vacation, it nevertheless does serve the purpose of changing our pace. Just to get out of the shop and into the real light of the sun for a number of days is good for the body and soul. Vacations are good and necessary for the sake of our physical and mental health. There is no sin involved in seeking such relaxation.
In the quiet of some woods, sitting beside a placid lake in the early morning, watching the glories of the setting sun, counting the stars of heaven, beholding the grandeur of a mountain or canyon—all are ways in which God’s hand gently calms us. Then we can take the time to hear the songs of different birds, or to see the intricate beauty of an endless number of flowers. Parenthetically, let us note that we as parents should not forget that although our children are out of school, our responsibility to train them has not diminished. Vacation into God’s creation brings us into a new classroom and sets before us a rich textbook filled with wonderful lessons. “When thou walkest. by the way” (Deut. 6:7), show your children God’s handiwork.
The purpose of these lines is to take note of what seems to be an increasing problem, namely, that of the place of the Sabbath in vacations.
First of all, it can be noted with appreciation, that with the rise in vacations, there is also a rise in the number of visitors our churches have from other members of our denomination. This is very good and is the way it should be.
However, there seems to be a parallel rise in the number of families who take the liberty of using their vacation as a vacation from worshipping God.
We should never take our families on vacation to a place where there is no possibility for us to worship God on the Sabbath through the proclamation of His Word.
The excuse is raised that we can worship God in creation. This excuse is devilish deception. As we have said, there is nothing wrong with worshipping God in the realm of His creation, but God never would have us to worship Him in the realm of creation RATHER THAN under the preaching of His Word. In fact, it could be said that if one continues deliberately to leave God as He is glorified under the preaching, he will soon find no God to be glorified in creation.
There is nothing wrong with vacations as such, but there is something very much wrong with vacations which are also vacations from worship services. We must not despise the rich spiritual food God sets before us on the Sabbath day, just so we can go on vacation. That is a destruction of both the Sabbath and of vacation. Then our vacation is only the blind and sinful satisfaction of our lusts for pleasure.
In that connection let us speak of the sin of returning home from vacation on Sunday. (In the past few years, instances of just this have been brought to my attention.) And why get home on Sunday?—because the father has to get to work on Monday. What other conclusion can be reached than that, in the mind of that father, Monday is more important than Sunday, that work is more important than church, that money and pleasure is more important than God. The stench of such sins rise to the highest heavens. A more terrifying thought is: what kind of opinion of God and of the Sabbath is being formed in the minds of the children of that family?
But what about attending the worship services of another denomination while we are on vacation? It will not hurt to stay away from our own services the one or two Sundays we are on vacation, will it? Is there something so special about the worship of God in our congregations? Is not God worshipped also in other denominations? Besides, we will then appreciate our own church so much more when we get back to our own churches.
Yes, God is most certainly worshipped in congregations outside of those who have affiliation in the federation of the Protestant Reformed denomination. However, why is it that we have our church membership in the congregation we do? Is it not because we confess that the three pure marks of the true church are best reflected in that congregation (Belgic Confession, Art. 29)? Is it not because we believe we receive the best spiritual food there? Hence, is it not because we believe God is the best worshipped there; that He is more highly glorified and praised where His Word is purely proclaimed?
Does this make something special of the worship of God in our denomination? Yes, it does. The fellow congregations with whom a congregation willingly affiliates, possess that same wonderful reflection of the pure marks. We. can believe that in all of them, the same Word of God is faithfully preached from Sabbath to Sabbath.
Does this mean that we should go on vacations only near one of our churches, or at least so that we can reach one of them by Sunday? Yes, that is true. Then we cannot go anywhere we desire. The physical desire to visit far away lands must be curbed in the light of our spiritual obligation to glorify God in the highest possible way.
Sometimes the Lord Himself creates circumstances which make it such that we cannot worship Him as we should or as we would like to do so. We may be sick and have to stay home on the Sabbath. Or we may be called to a distant city due to the sickness or death of a relative. In such cases we should eat the best spiritual food available, even though it may be meager. We will do so, being sure that our reason for attending such services is not for our own convenience.
Does it hurt, if we willingly stay away from the best reflection of the pure marks of the true church? It most certainly does.
First, it is a slap in the face of the Almighty. By such action we express to our heavenly Father that in that worship service He should be satisfied with less praise and glory. And the reason He should be satisfied is because we want to go on vacation to an area of the world where the best known proclamation of His Word does not exist.
Shame on us for even letting such a thought into our heads. How terrifying such a thought is.
Secondly, it hurts us and our families spiritually. We would not have our children be fed with just water for one week, would we? We must also be sure that we and our children receive the sincere milk of the Word whenever God sets it before us. We worry if our child refuses to eat and we wonder what ails him. Something is ailing when a child of God makes it impossible for himself to drink the sincere milk of the Word. To say it will not hurt to be gone for one Sunday, reveals a lack of appetite for the sincere milk of the Word and shows a touch of spiritual sickness.
Beloved believers, does not our church membership show that a vow has been made? Do not we say, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalm 137:5, 6).