Going away on vacation has a nice effect of giving you a fresh perspective on your life. On this most recent trip, for two weeks to San Jose to see my parents, having this time away from work and catching up with old friends has made me realize how much of a workaholic I am. I spend practically zero time and money on leisure. The notion of watching a movie, playing fantasy football, or having a hobby are completely foreign to my normal schedule.

You could chalk it up to having a demanding job, two small children, and an old house. But when I do have discretionary time, I tend to think about more work-oriented things I could do, not less: joining another board, or expanding my network, or researching and posting on my blog. And I never consider that I have discretionary money; not with college funds and retirement accounts and a plunging stock portfolio.

To be sure, personal comforts and leisure pursuits can easily become trivial or, even worse, idolatrous. Just as part of the effectiveness of fasting from food is in stoking our spiritual hunger for God, so does the easy life dull us from the reality that we live not for ourselves but for a greater, eternal mission. "Retail therapy" is based on the lie that things can fill our emptiness. God cares that we spend well all of our time and money, not just the 5 percent we spend on church activities and the 10 percent we tithe. That Jesus suffered does not replace our striving for the Kingdom but rather embues it with purpose. See, for example, Hebrews 13:13-14 or 1 Peter 4:1-2.

But work can itself become trivial or, even worse, idolatrous. God made rest for our enjoyment and for His exultation. God doesn't need us to accomplish His purposes, whether healing broken people or fixing broken systems. Time and money are meant to be spent and not hoarded. And each of us is worth spending some of that time and money on, for our own sake, and not just because the rest and pleasure will make us better parents or workers or ministers.

So here's hoping 2009 brings good uses of time and money, both for meaningful work and for equally meaningful rest and leisure. God is pleased with both, and desires to give both in abundance; just maybe I'll be more willing this year to receive both from Him.
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