BUT WHAT ABOUT REST: HOBBIES AND LEISURE?
We’ve seen recently that Proverbs encourages us to work hard, to work diligently, to work honestly and to work for God’s glory… But what about rest and leisure? Is it good (and even godly) to take time off, put your feet up, play games, practice my hobby, and just chill? We (Sean and Carel) think the answer is “yes” with one proviso: that even our leisure time is enjoyed with God’s glory as our goal.
The Bible does recommend (or even command) rest. God rested on the seventh day when he had finished His work of creating. The Israelites had rest built into their daily lives and days when they rested from their labours. We New Testament Christians are also called to rest (with ultimate rest being found in Jesus who says: “Come to me … and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28). Rest is good for us and rest, when done well, brings glory to God (the God who made us for working and resting).
Let’s explore this a bit more… The Bible calls us to worship God through our work, and it calls us to worship God through our eating and drinking, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Jesus was actually accused by the religious elite of “feasting” too much (cf. Matt. 11:19 on “eating and drinking” – a phrase for feasting). The new creation is even described as a great banquet in both the Old and New Testaments. So, we need to realize that the enjoyment of life (and the things that are enjoyable) are not excluded from our worship, giving thanks to God for the good things He has given us (small foretastes of our future hope).
The danger, of course, is that anything (even good things) in this life can become idols. We can worship the object, rather than the Creator who provided it. We can make the “eating and drinking” an end in itself. For example, Philippians 3:18-19 speaks of those who have made “earthly things” their gods. The things they pursue and worship. Yet, the Christian is supposed to live a life of contentment, embracing abundance and need, trusting in our Father to sustain us in both. We praise God for His good gifts, but we also praise Him when we don’t have them. We worship Him alone.
We believe that hobbies and leisure-time fit into this category. We have hobbies (like sailing, drinking coffee, reading books, listening to music, and so on) because we a) enjoy them and b) relax through them. They help us to rest (with a small ‘r’). So let’s remember to thank God for our hobbies and our leisure-time. But, if a hobby becomes our master (an end in itself), distracting us from our responsibilities (like work, family and using my time, money and energy for God’s Kingdom) and becomes the object of our worship, then we are no longer worshiping the Creator, but worshiping a created thing. If we look for our ultimate joy, satisfaction and rest in the wrong place, we are guilty of idolatry. Only God can satisfy our hearts and give us true Rest (with a capital ‘R’). We need to constantly assess our own hearts in this – am I making a good thing an ultimate thing? And do I need to repent of that and ask God to help me change my ways?
Through all this we need to keep eternity in mind. As Christians, we are called to have an eternal perspective on life, living for what outlasts in this current life (cf. Matt. 6:19-24). So, we also need to assess the eternal value of what we are pouring our time, money and energy into. So, in as much as hobbies can be helpful in resting and we praise God for the good gifts we receive, they shouldn’t divert our attention from living for eternity now. It shouldn’t be the main thing we seek in this life (Matt. 6:33). In the light of eternity, hobbies and leisure-time have very little eternal value. We can and should be thankful to God for the good gifts His given us, but realize that hobbies don’t last.
Enjoy and worship God through our hobbies and leisure-time, be thankful for the gift of having them, but hold onto them loosely. Let’s be increasingly willing to forgo them for the sake of the Kingdom, for the sake of each other, and for the sake of loving our God and putting Him first.
Sean Savides and Carel Pienaar