Ecc. 2 24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? (ESV)
Summer’s almost here, but this Spring’s weather hasn’t always given us the chance to appreciate that fact. Even as I write this article for the Preacher, it is Preschool Picnic Day, 49 degrees, and a steady rain outside. The fun of today will have to be “indoor fun.”
I do trust, nevertheless, that summer will come. The beauty of the summer months is that our schedules usually relax a little and we have a chance to recharge before another school cycle hits us. Summer is a wonderful time of the year for the “times of refreshing” that go with it. It is a time to enjoy time with each other outside, in the Vitamin D-filled sunshine, and to let our cares go for a while.
Sometimes, in our productivity driven age, I think that we completely devalue the business of refreshment and rest. The body needs these things and our Lord is all about meeting our needs. The “busy, busy, busy”-nature of our world today often gives the suggestion to people that it is a sin to rest. One of my grandfathers was a dairy farmer. He died two years after he sold his farm. Ever since, I have struggled with whether he died of a broken heart from selling the farm or he died from simply having worked himself to the end and then falling tired into his grave. I see this problem among my brother pastors as well, who often bear the physical, psychological, and spiritual scars of too many consecutive 60+ hour weeks.
There is nothing better… The Teacher of Ecclesiastes puts the value of refreshment, rest, and work in these terms. There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. While the Bible does not promote the “eat, drink, and be merry” philosophy of the ancient Greek Epicureans, it does encourage us to enjoy life, our work and our rest. It tells us that there is nothing better than enjoying our labor, our food, our drink. It’s good for the body. It’s good for the mind. It’s good for the soul.
Why are eating, drinking, and labor so good? This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? I’ve always wanted to tell someone who looked really overworked and stressed, “God wants you to have a vacation!” While many might think such a suggestion to be presumptive, the Teacher of Ecclesiastes doesn’t seem to think so. Times of rest and refreshment are every bit as important (and God willed) as our labor is. Indeed, when I come to think of it, they are necessary from a vocational perspective. Time away from productivity for our families, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ is necessary and faithful.
He who died and rose again once said, Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28). The rest of which He speaks is the rest of an unburdened conscience and heart set free by the Good News of the forgiveness of sins. What’s good for the soul, however, is also good for the body. Times of rest and refreshment are part of God’s will for us. They demonstrate, along with the grace which saves us, that God’s will is always for our good, not for our harm. Our labors every day are not for our harm, but for our satisfaction and wellbeing. Our rest and refreshment also are not for our harm, but our good. And they reveal that our God is a good, loving, and gracious God.
God wants you to have a vacation! He wants you to have times of rest and refreshment. I pray you hear those words and enjoy yourselves this summer. The time is coming when we will rest forever in His everlasting arms, but this does not mean we can’t have a little joy now as well. God grant you rest and refreshment this summer. See you in church!
Sincerely in Christ, Pastor T.