FIRST-PERSON: How do you spend your free time?
The Apostle Paul tells us not to make good use of our time, but to make the best use of our time. His understanding of the present evil age leads him to strong exhortation regarding the way followers of Jesus must manage our time.
Our lives are so short. James reminds us that our life is little more than "a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."
Why then do we fritter so much of our lives away in front of the television screen?
Why do we spend every evening playing or watching sports?
Why do we spend our weekends roaming the shopping malls, looking at more things we do not need?
Jesus tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Seeking first the Kingdom means we are not seeking after the same things as the pagan world around us: food, drink and clothing. We must take a good look at our lives.
Do we shop as often, and for the same things, as our non-Christian neighbors?
Do we covet all the newest fashions?
Are we as drawn to the latest technological gizmos as everyone else?
Too often, we give lip service to seeking first the Kingdom, while our lives demonstrate pagan preoccupations.
Structuring our free time in a God-honoring way means we will prioritize our leisure activities so that it is clear that Jesus is on the throne of our lives. We will make time for daily Bible study and prayer. We will share meals around the table instead of in front of the tube. We will engage in family prayer and worship. And when our devotion to Jesus collides with the temptation to put something else on the throne, we will demonstrate to the world who is our King.
One way we can prioritize our activities is quite practical. Many organized sports leagues now play soccer or softball on Sundays, as though it were any other day. What should a Christian do in this situation?
Here's another example: While in high school, my brother played for an advanced soccer league that practiced every Wednesday night during the church's youth group hour. My brother was faced with a dilemma: should he sacrifice his potential soccer scholarship in order to attend church? Or should he sacrifice Jesus on the altar of his sports ambitions? I was proud of his choice to fellowship with the Body of Christ, even if it meant he sacrificed playing time during the games. (Later, he was awarded a soccer scholarship to a Christian university.)
Too many Christians pay lip service to Jesus as King and yet demonstrate by their recreational choices that something else is on the throne. Ball is Ba'al. When parents replace Sunday morning worship with a Sunday morning ballgame, they are communicating more to their children through that one action than many years' worth of words stressing the importance of church attendance.
We declare something to be worthy by giving it our time and attention. Sports, movies, television, video games, shopping -- all of these activities may be worthy of a place in our lives. But in a world in which people are bowing down to the Caesar of Leisure, spending so much time and energy in recreation and entertainment, Christians should intentionally seek to undermine the high status given to leisure by showing people that Jesus is more worthy.
For some, it will mean cutting out certain forms of entertainment completely. For others, it will mean sacrificing Sunday ballgames for Sunday worship. Our friends who are devoted to leisure might think we are crazy for cutting the cable cord, stopping our shopping sprees, praying at fixed hours, or missing some sporting events. Ironically, it is only when we put leisure back in its proper place under the lordship of Christ that we restore true sanity (the Apostle Peter calls it "sobermindedness") to our lives.
What we do with our free time shows who is King of our lives.
Trevin Wax is associate pastor for missions and education at First Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Tenn. This column is an excerpt from his book, "Holy Subversion" (Crossway).