Christian Use Of Leisure
Not many years ago the use of leisure presented few problems since so many people had very little. Stores were open most evenings, office hours included Saturday, and employees in industrial plants worked from early to late. Now stores are open few evenings and stagger the hours of their employees; not many offices open on Saturday and every new industrial contract sees a reduction in the weekly hours of work.
Our educators then began to see that they had a double task: (1) to educate young people for their life work; (2) to guide them to use their leisure time profitably. The old adage is true, “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.” For the Christian the problem of using his leisure time profitably is also a double one for he has a two-fold citizenship: (1) on earth, (2) in Heaven.
Two general principles should govern the Christian’s life and these, of necessity, apply very strongly to his use of leisure. (1) God’s people in Old Testament times are referred to in Isaiah 43:7 in this way — “Everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.” “Called by His name, created for His glory” — what a challenge to appropriate conduct! The New Testament (1 Cor. 6:19, 20) presents the same challenge, “Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price therefore glorify God in your body.”
(2) In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul discusses the Christian attitude towards food and drink that have been offered to idols. Should he partake of it? He concludes (verse 31). “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Then, almost as an afterthought he slips in the words, “whatsoever ye do” and these prove decidedly embarrassing at times. They are directed to every phase of our life, including leisure. Paul’s conclusion in verse 32 is most clearly expressed in Weymouth’s translation, “Do not be causes of stumbling, either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.”
The purposes for which we should use our leisure time may be grouped under three major headings: Self-improvement; Recreation; Service. Our Christianity will be shown by our choices in these three divisions.
Under this heading we will make first a broad division into (a) General, (b) Spiritual. Under the General we shall first consider the Reading of Good Books. We could hardly have taught English for forty years in a Teachers’ College and be
among those who say that a Christian should read nothing but the Bible, although if leisure time is very limited that might well be the advice. Reading good books: furnishes us with ideas, enlarges our vocabulary and moulds our style of speaking or writing. Sometimes we are amazed by the fashion of speaking and the vocabulary of some who have little formal education but who have made the English Bible a life-time study; nothing can surpass the diction of the King James version of the Scriptures. Many modern books, however, classed as good literature present ideals far removed from the teaching of the Bible. The Christian is urged to see that he chooses good literature in the fullest sense of the word.
In the second place, we shall consider the use of Television as a means of improvement. Whatever our opinion of the perils connected with Television, and they are many, we may as well realize that Television is here to stay. It is being used increasingly in all types of educational institutions and some predict that the TV screen will eventually displace the teacher. Through it we may visit all continents and get an outline of many important events in history or the present day. In the TV guide for the week in which I am writing, we have interesting and instructive documentaries on Leningrad, the Danube and The City of the Sea (St. John’s, Newfoundland), visits to Jack Miner’s Bird Sanctuary and California’s Marineland of the Pacific Ocean and for music-lovers an hour with Bach, Beethoven and Mozart.
The October 1966 issue of Moody Monthly contains a number of articles on ‘A Christian View of Television.’ It is well worth reading.
The third means of improvement which I am suggesting is one which I find much used in my own assembly, Bethany, Hamilton. We have a number of elementary school teachers who for some years used, or are still using, a great deal of their leisure time in evening classes and summer courses to improve their standing and eventually qualify for their B.A. degree. In a large university city like Hamilton, evening classes of various types are given and it is amazing to see how many avail themselves of them. A Christian concerned to fit himself to do his best work undoubtedly commends the gospel and should also in the end make himself a more useful servant of Christ.
I may surprise you by adding participation in a school or university athletic team as an important means of self-improvement. During my forty-five years in educational work I was always actively associated with one or more athletic teams. I am convinced that if athletics are properly conducted, they develop in the participant qualities that make for good citizenship, both in respect of his every day life and his heavenly citizenship. Team work should develop a spirit of co-operation, so essential in ordinary life and in the church; keen competition should lead to self-control and ability to take success and set-backs well. One can hardly call participation “recreation” since it frequently involves keeping going when somewhat exhausted. This quality of “stick-to-itiveness” is a very important one in life in general and in Christian work in particular.
The factors mentioned so far, are concerned with development in general and might be recommended to anyone. It is a tragedy, however, if the Christian is not concerned with spiritual development. What steps can he take to promote spiritual growth?
At the Guelph Bible School a good deal of stress was placed on the morning Quiet Time and at our request, A. P. Gibbs wrote a pamphlet on the subject which is still available. Put the Quiet Time, even if it has to be short, on your morning program and you will never regret it. Nothing can take the place of individual Bible Study.
In a busy world there is a danger that we may substitute attendance at meetings for this individual study. Lists of helpful books: commentaries, Bible dictionaries, etc. are available. Books are expensive but a wise choice of each purchase will enable you to build a satisfactory library.
Bible courses, such as those issued by the Emmaus Bible School, help to systematize our Bible Study. In many cases groups work together and thus Christian fellowship is added to the value derived from the study itself.
Attendance at the regular meetings of the local church promotes growth. The Bible exhortation (Heb. 10:25 R.S.V.) is “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.” Uniting with others in prayer and worship is stimulating and the ministry from gifted brethren should increase one’s Bible knowledge. A sense of responsibility will make us support the gospel testimony by our presence, even if we have no active part in that particular service.
The summer vacation affords a fine opportunity for growth in the things of God which many, unfortunately, are neglecting. It is true that with the present-day tension in the business world some need a quiet holiday in a summer cottage. To ignore God, however, in vacation plans and rush off thoughtlessly into a worldly atmosphere divorced from Christian privileges, may result in spiritual shipwreck. A Bible conference, if well-chosen, supplies a happy combination of helpful ministry, delightful fellowship and relaxation. Try a Bible conference or camp next summer.