The other day I thought to myself that tourism is a luxury only the relatively rich can afford and this post started out as a note to say that tourism is unbiblical. Until I thought about it. Now, there is the principle of taking a rest (Sabbath) and time for family and recreation free from the obligations of working for a living (see the fourth commandment in Exodus 20 verse 8 or Deuteronomy 5 verse 12) so having a holiday seems OK.
You do not have to look to far to see people taking a journey whether it is to a new land to live in, as with Abraham, or to visit the baby Jesus, as with the Magi. Going on a pilgrimage to a special place because you believe God has sent you or because of a holy association seem to be OK as well. But tourism? Visiting places out of sheer curiosity or going somewhere new to get away from it all?
Well, I think I have found two instances which seem to suggest that going as a tourist is OK – at least some times. When the Queen of Sheba heard about King Solomon’s fame, her interest is piqued. So she sets off to see for herself. It seems to me that curiosity was her motive. In the end she discovered that what she had heard was no exaggeration and she was suitably in awe of what she saw. Now one person’s curiosity is another person’s nosiness, so we do need to stop and check our motives. However, I think that a desire to learn, to discover new things, to allow ourselves to be challenged by new people and places etc is acceptable – so long as we are respectful of the people we meet en route.
The other day, when reading and studying Mark chapter 7, I saw something that I had not properly appreciated even though I had read that chapter several times before. At first glance in the gospels, Jesus appears very busy and appears to have little time to eat and sleep let alone take a break. That is understandable as it would be a very slow read if we had to plough through details of every meal and every time he went to the bathroom! Having said that, there are a number of times when Jesus does take time out, usually to pray. If we follow Jesus, having proper rest periods is part of our calling. But in the middle of Mark chapter 7 Jesus does not just have a rest: he goes abroad to another country where people will not recognise him. In other words he takes a foreign holiday.
Jesus’ “holiday” is not like ours. For a start he probably walked. For another, his holiday was briefly interrupted by a “foreigner” who asked him for help. His response is instructive. At first he says “no” but when the woman shows that she is serious, he then grants her request. What he does not do is say, “Now that is my holiday ruined, I might as well go back to work”. That is another lesson for us. If our holiday is interrupted and there is no one else on hand to help in a particular situation, then it is OK to help out. But that is no reason to go back to work – continue with the rest of the holiday.
So the Queen of Sheba travelled abroad to satisfy her curiosity and Jesus went abroad to get away from it all. I therefore conclude that being a tourist on a foreign holiday is permissible.