2012 was the perfect year for our family to go to Disney together. With twelve years between our firstborn and “the baby,” Jamie and I had reckoned that there’d be a narrow window when Caleb was still young enough to enjoy it with us and when Lydia would be old enough to remember it. Somehow, our resources met the cost of a vacation there in that narrow window and so we went.
We can’t always afford vacation and certainly not Disney, so my wife and I spend months planning every detail. We look up official and “unauthorized” books and websites. I create detailed schedules for each day. Yes, I’m a geek, but it works for me.
Most of the time.
Our first day on property proved that happiness isn’t a place on earth. Everything went wrong and we tumbled into our “cabin” that evening wondering how we’d failed so miserably at having fun.
After we’d all tucked in, I lay awake lamenting the loss of such a rare, and costly opportunity. Then, a clear image came into my mind of my family circled on our knees in the morning, asking God to be on vacation with us.
I’d always assumed that since Christ called us away from materialism that having things and enjoying luxuries was wrong. I hated vacations because they always felt like a flight from God. I only ever went for my family’s sake. In that vision I realized the fatherhood of God on a deeper level. I’d always thought that we should only ask God for what we need. That was wrong. I give my kids what they need whether they ask for it or not. It’s not something I particularly enjoy. It’s my job. I do enjoy the opportunity to give my kids something they really want – something special. I derive pleasure from their pleasure. God is the same.
The next morning we knelt on the floor as a family and asked God to be on vacation with us. He was. The only word I have for the rest of that vacation is, “blessed.” Crowds seemed to part as we went through. We’d walk into a restaurant and a table our size would empty. One time we just happened to end up on the ferry back to our lodging as a fireworks display erupted over the water. That trip wasn’t “magical;” it was miraculous!
I tell you all of this to say that freedom from greed doesn’t mean a life of ascetic, guilt-ridden, joyless penny pinching. We’re only free from greed when we know we’re free from need. Greed comes from a place of perceived scarcity. Greedy people must stockpile goods because they live in a closed system where the only resources are the ones they generate. Greedy people overspend to compensate for a dearth of self-worth. If God is truly our father, then we can eat, drink, and take occasional getaways to the sea.¹ We can be extravagant with the ones we love knowing that God has enough to also give to the poor.²
The Apostle Paul said it this way:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17)
At the end of the day, life in Christ is free. We’re free from soul hunger and so we’re never compelled to spend. We’re free from judgment and so we can spend, and give, and live with open hands. All we need to do is take God with us.
- It wasn’t until a course in my MA in Ministry program that I realized Jesus took his disciples on a beach vacation. Read about it in Mark 7:24.
- In Mark 14:3-9, Jesus rebukes his disciples’ for their utilitarian approach to material goods and commends a woman for her wasteful extravagance. So important was this lesson that he made it a rider on the story of his passion.