Enjoying God in Work and Leisure
Leland Ryken has written a very engaging and helpful book on work and leisure called Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure. What follows are basically notes on some of the helpful things I learned and discovered through this book. Some things are straight from the book, many things are my own thoughts stimulated by the book.
If I had the time at this point in my life, I would love to have written a more systematic, organized, and clear article on this issue. But time is short and I must settle, at this time, with some quickly scribbled notes. Perhaps one day I will put my mind towards producing a more articulate article on work and leisure. Until then, this will have to do for my contribution. My hope is that it will help the church gain a more accurate and balanced perspective of the issues and that it will be a springboard for further thought.
What is work?
Work is what we must do to meet our needs. Notice several things about work from this definition.
First, work is what you do to provide for your lifestyle.
Second, it follows that work is, consequently, largely a means to an end (providing for lifestyle) rather than an end in itself.
Third, work is done out of necessity. Whether the necessity is one of need (i.e., if I don't work I will have nothing to eat) or luxury (if I don't work I won't be able to have the trip to Mexico), work is that which is done out of obligation.
Fourth, whether the work we do more directly involves something "spiritual" (such as preparing a Sunday school lesson) or "secular" (such as paying bills), the aim is to promote the kingdom of God. Preparing and leading a Sunday school lesson declares God's glory and so promotes His kingdom. And paying bills shows forth honesty and integrity and so promotes God's kingdom.
Job vs. Work
There is a difference between job and work. Our job is the work that we are paid for-that which we do to earn a living. While work includes our job, but is much more than our job. For "we also need to make sense of vacuuming the house, taking out the garbage, and driving children to music lessons" (15). Thus, work "includes all that we are obliged to do to meet our physical and social needs" (16).
What is leisure?
Leisure is time devoted to freely chosen activities that are inherently pleasurable. Notice several things about leisure from this definition.
First, leisure is not done to provide for your lifestyle. It is "superfluous"-beyond what is necessary for existence.
Second, it follows that work is, consequently, largely an end in itself. It is not done for the sake of something else (other than the glory of God) but for its own sake.
Third, work is not done out of necessity. It is done "freely." This follows from the fact that it is beyond what is necessary for existence and is an end in itself (and therefore is not required by anything beyond itself other than the glory of God).
Fourth, whether the leisure more directly involves something "spiritual" (such as reflecting on a Bible passage out of a desire to contemplate God) or "secular" (such as attending a ballet), the aim is to enjoy the presence of the kingdom of God. The aim is not mainly to promote God's kingdom when we engage in leisure. It is mainly to "rest" from our labors for a time to enjoy the presence of the kingdom apart from the work being undertaken to advance the kingdom.
The relationship between the two
These are basic definitions of work and leisure. So it follows that every moment of our life is either one or the other. If we are not working, we are engaging in leisure because we are doing something that is not necessary for existence (by definition)-even if that is simply sitting idle.
What this means is that to make time for leisure, one must spend less time at work (and vice versa). We need to find the balance between the two. If everything is leisure, then leisure loses much of its novelty and "reward" feeling because it gains much of its refreshment from the fact that it is an "earned" break from work. Likewise, if everything is work we are not relaxing very much and are probably moving towards burn out. The proper balance is where our work benefits our leisure and our leisure benefits our work.
But we should not work simply to bring about quality leisure. Likewise, we should not have leisure simply for the sake of refreshing ourselves so that our work is of a higher quality. For this would be to make leisure a means to an end, and therefore distort it because it is mainly an end in itself.
Finally, work and leisure relate to many of the same doctrines such as: time, pleasure, sin, worship, moderation, and stewardship. An examination of the two will therefore help us understand these other doctrines better as well.
Is the line really that distinct?
Of course, we should not make work and leisure so mutually exclusive as to make work completely empty of leisure or leisure completely empty of work. Some aspects of our work involve "semi-leisure" and some aspects of leisure are "semi-work." Additionally, while work is mainly a means to an end, we should also find inherent value in it because it brings glory to God when done in obedience to Him. And most people probably also like there work and will find inherent satisfaction in it due to that. But the fact remains that work is nonetheless, mainly, an obligatory task.
Likewise, while leisure is mainly an end in itself this does not mean that we should seek no utilitarian value in it. If we are reading for enjoyment, the fact is that we will also become more educated. But the fact that leisure works for a means and can be done to some extent for a means does not change the fact that it is nonetheless, mainly, a non-obligatory task done for its own sake and should be treated as such.
Why is work good?
Ryken provides several reasons that affirm the goodness of work. It is a means of providing for wants and needs; it is a means of economic production; some work is its own reward because it brings a sense of personal satisfaction; it meets our need for activity; it serves a social function by bringing us into contact and co-operation with others; it benefits others.
Why is leisure good?
Ryken also provides several reasons that affirm the goodness of leisure. It balances the strain of work; it provides for relaxation (and thus refreshment), entertainment, and personal development; it is a time of celebration; it is fun; it helps establish one's identity; it helps us discover more fully who we are; it is a time to develop social relationships; it builds community; it is "one of the largest things that families share" (30); it is time where a married couple can focus especially on building their relationship and enjoying each other; it is an arena in which we can express values that could not otherwise be expressed.
Ethical views hostile to leisure
First is idleness. While leisure is not mainly a means, it is nonetheless not idleness. "Leisure in its ideal sense is not the absence of activity or effort; it is joyous effort in activities that carry their own reward" (32).
Second is utilitarianism "that values only activities that are directly useful to meeting one's physical needs. By its very nature, leisure is something that is nonutilitarian..." (32).
Third is self-abasement. "Leisure is intrinsically pleasurable. It produces delight and satisfaction. It is no wonder, therefore, that leisure fares poorly in ethical systems that denigrate pleasure" (32).
Time: the vehicle in which work and leisure occur
In order obtain the maximization of our work and leisure, we must see them in relationship to the time we have because they both take time. Ryken points out that most Americans feel that they don't have enough time. The result is generally that leisure goes, not work, because we tend to be work-aholics. What is ironic is that time saving devices often end up taking more time because, due to the increased efficiency, we are able to do more and therefore end filling the same amount of time or more. For example, email allows us to get letters to each other quicker and easier. But we send more letters because of it.
Trying to get too much out of work
Ryken points out that there is a great danger of turning work into a god, and many have fallen into this trap. It happens when we make work a means of goals such as money, status, social standing and satisfaction rather than a calling in which we pursue God and promote His kingdom.
What an amazing paradox it is that many people over-work for their family's sake (which means to provide them with more physical goods) and thus end up neglecting their family.
Getting too little out of leisure
In our day work is generally overvalued and leisure is undervalued. So while we tried to get too much out of work and came up empty, we have in doing so sacrificed many benefits of leisure. For we ended up having not enough time for leisure, poor quality leisure, a utilitarian view of leisure (which takes away its leisureliness), and professionalizing leisure (that is, turning it into a form of work and thus destroying it).
The Church not glorifying God as it ought in leisure
This is largely because of the church's silence on the issue, but also is due to bad theology of leisure. The result is that leisure is either not utilized as it ought for God's glory, or that the church is like the world in its exercise of leisure.
Now that we have these basics of our framework established, I wish to lay out a framework for a solid Christian theology concerning work and leisure and how to glorify God in them. The themes that I will explore are those which I think are especially helpful in transforming our thinking on the issue. And the result of right thinking on this area will be right behavior.
I. Work is a Divine Calling
I am not using this to mean that there is a mystical message from God one must hear before he can decide which job to take. This simply means that work is not simply permitted by God, but required by God. Work is a divine mandate, and within that mandate God enlightens our mind to understand which specific forms of work we should focus our pursuit of His glory on. My aim here is to focus on the first part: that work is a divine mandate.
I have divided the several reasons for concluding that work is a divine calling into various categories. Not every category is designed to show that work is required. Many are simply to demonstrate the dignity of work and give us a right perspective on work. For without a right and dignified view of work, it will be hard to joyfully engage in our work as a calling. Thus, I have intermingled the Scriptural teaching which simply affirms the goodness of work and which explicitly requires work. These two strands should be fairly obvious.
The Example of our God
1. We should work because God works:
God Created the world: Genesis 1
God Sustains the world: Psalm 104:10-22
God Protects his people 24 hours a day: Psalm 121
Since God works, work has dignity.
When we work, we are expressing the image of God in us.
The Way God Created the World
2. God originally made creation such that mankind would work
God created mankind to rule over creation, which is work: Genesis 1:26
3. The fall did not remove the need for work, but brought a curse upon work: Genesis 3:17-19
Because we are now sinful can be abused Psalm 127:2
But work one day will never be in vain: Isaiah 65:21-23
4. Because God's design both before and after the fall is that we work, when we work we are sharing in the creation God made and His purposes for it.
The Dignity of Work
5. We should work because idleness is a vice: Prov 6:6-11; 13:4; 19:15; 21:25-26; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
6. We should work because it is highly praised: Proverbs 31
Scripture both Presupposes and Commands Work
7. Exodus 20:9 expects and presupposes that we will work
8. Those who once stole are to work so that they may be able to give: Eph 4:28
9. We must work because usually there is no other way to obey 1 Tim 5:8, which teaches "if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever."
10. "Work is as much a part of the natural order as the rising of the sun" (175): Psalm 104:19-23.
The Central New Testament Passage on Work
11. Paul taught that to not work is to be undisciplined: 2 Thessalonians 3:11
12. Paul taught by his example that we ought to work in order to pay for our food and not rely on others for our needs (insofar as is possible): 2 Thessalonians 3:9
For this reason, it is not wise to take vows of poverty that mean giving away all of your money. For we all have to eat-even if its only a little-and we all have to live somewhere. And this costs money. If we give all of our money away, we will still need to eat and have some form of housing-but we will then have to rely on others for it. Instead, give away as much as you can without violating Paul's example to not be a burden.
13. If anyone will not work, he should not eat: 2 Thessalonians 3:10
14. We are outright commanded to work and eat bread purchased by our own money: 2 Thessalonians 3:12
15. Those who make it their vocation to preach and teach are not required to do other forms of work to meet their needs, but deserve to earn their living from those they preach the gospel to and disciple: 2 Thessalonians 3: 9; 1 Timothy 5:18; 1 Corinthians 9:3-14, especially verse 14
16. Nonetheless, such people are not required to exercise their right to refrain from working: 1 Corinthians 9:15, 12; 2 Thessalonians 3:9
God does not necessarily favor "religious" work over "secular" work. God affirms the value of both.
This has been a significant implication of what we have seen in the previous principles, for most of the time it is secular work that is the focus of the biblical passages that we have referred to. We must reject the typical sacred/ secular dichotomy and realize that the issue is not whether a task is more directly related to spiritual things but whether God's command and approval are there. The following principles make it even more explicit that God's command and approval is in secular work. All must engage in "secular" work to some extent. And some are right to engage in it as a career instead of what is commonly termed "full time Christian service."
17. All in some sense must engage in so-called "secular work" (though not necessarily secular jobs) because we all need to pay bills, make supper, clean house, etc.
18. "God's providence led his people to have occupations in the world" (194).
Abraham shepherd; Paul tentmaker (1 Corinthians 9:12-15).
Many called to secular forms of work in Exodus 31:1-6--and this "secular" work served a religious purpose.
19. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 mandates secular work for those who are not seeking to make their living by the gospel. It is especially significant that secular work here is not presented as "less spiritual," but is seen as the norm.
20. God has arranged society such that there must be farmers, housewives, accountants, etc.
21. 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 tell Christians that Christianity does not mean that they need not leave the work they were in before conversion-which was, of course, secular. Paul tells us that we can and should serve God right where we are.
22. John the Baptist affirmed the value of secular work in Luke 3:12-14
"The Christian life infuses moral and spiritual values into earthly occupations, but the occupations themselves retain their integrity" (195).
23. Many godly men served God mightily in secular positions
The Implications that Follow From All Work-Even Secular Work-Being a Calling
24. We can please God in all that we do in our work.
Even work done off job that is menial is also pleasing to God
25. We ought to seek the glory of God in all of life and all forms of vocation because all of life is God's.
26. We ought to seek the glory of God in all aspects of society, culture, and vocation because of 1 Corinthians 7:17-24.
This passage tells Christians just because they are Christians does not mean they should leave the work-the calling-they were in before God called them to faith. Paul tells us that we can and should serve God right where we are: "Let each man remain with God in that condition in which he was called."
This has huge implications. People come to faith from all parts of society, all forms of education, and all forms of culture. And they are to remain in those things where they are, for the most part, even when they become Christians. So this is a clear teaching that God seeks to be glorified in all of life. He would not have carpenters or factory workers or artists or businessmen or accountants or singers or writers stay in those occupations when they become Christians unless He wanted us to pursue His glory in those areas-in all of life.
27. Secular work is not merely a witnessing field; we can serve God in the work itself. The work is a spiritual way of glorifying God. To think otherwise is to leave your work itself unaffected by God.
28. Since work is a calling, it is something personal. And thus our attitude is important.
Luther wrote: "If you ask an insignificant maidservant why she scours a dish or milks the cow she can say: I know that the thing I do pleases God, for I have God's work and commandment....God does not look at the insignificance of the acts but at the heat that serves Him in such little things" (Ryken, 197).
Cotton Matther also said: "We live by faith in our vocations....A man therefore...doth his work sincerely as in God's presence, and as one that hath a heavenly business in hand, and therefore comfortably knowing God approves of his way and work" (198).
29. Our whole life is a vocation in which to serve God.
Our work is a calling from God. It is his appointed means to provide for our needs. But God's calling extends beyond our specific job to all the "tasks that God places before us in the course of daily living" (105). What this means is that our work is a stewardship from God and we are responsible to do it well. And it also means that all moral forms of work are legitimate, whether "sacred" or "secular" because God's command is there. Luther wrote, "It looks like a small thing when a maid cooks and cleans and does other housework. But because God's command is there, even such a small work must be praised as a service of God far surpassing the holiness and asceticism of all monks and nuns."
Unfortunately, our society today generally neglects God and so does not see work as a calling and stewardship from him. The result is not that the diligence that was once inspired by the knowledge that work is a calling has vanished. Rather, the diligence has taken on a different form and goal-instead of to please God, the goal is to build a successful career and make money.
30. Many virtues are affirmed
"A work ethic implies several related things. It assumes that the active life and not simply the contemplative life is worthy. It implies that industriousness and a degree of self-reliance are private and public virtues. In addition, a work ethic usually implies a social concern for the health of society, and this is often tinged with a feeling of patriotism" (20).
31. Many vices dare guarded against
A denial of a work ethic results in "a high degree of idleness, low economic achievement, ...low regard for the quality of work, tolerance of laziness, and a parasitic reliance on others to sustain their life" (20).
We should save money and have insurance
It is from principles 12-14 that we see the importance of saving money in certain circumstances.
First, we always ought to have some money in savings in case an emergency comes up. Without savings, we will not have enough to meet the necessary expenditures and will therefore run the risk of being a burden to others, which Paul tells us not to do. Of course this doesn't mean we should place bundles in savings. We must wisely evaluate what is a wise level of emergency to prepare for. If something worse happens, our conscience can be clear that we did what was wise, and God will provide what more we need.
Second, this shows us that it is good and right to have insurance. For who could save enough money to prepare for, say, an unfortunate car crash that results in thousands of dollars of medical bills? Likewise, if it is our duty to provide for our family, then shouldn't we make provisions so that our children and spouse can be provided for if we die prematurely? And wouldn't life insurance be one of the best ways to do this? I'm not saying that this passage in 2 Thessalonians requires that we have insurance, but it does show that it is wise and best to have it.
Third and finally, we should save to pay for expenses during a time when we know that we will not be working in a way that will pay. For example, I plan on attending seminary soon. In the meantime, I am working to provide for my family. When school starts, I know that my income will be greatly reduced. Therefore, I should seek to save as much as I can now so that when that time comes, I can still provide for my family from my own resources.
II. Leisure is a Divine Calling
This means that leisure is not just permitted by God, but required by God. God requires us to spend time that is not devoted to work but to that which is "beyond" what is necessary for mere survival. There are several chords of biblical teaching establishing this. In presenting those chords, I will also set forth strands which do not mandate leisure, but affirm its goodness. This will be for helping us gain a right perspective on leisure so that we can please God in it.
So my aim here is essentially what it was above when we examined work-to help Christians gain a right perspective so that we can glorify God in all of life and not live a life of isolation in our own little groups. For doing so keeps us from being salt in the culture and a light to the world. Unless we seek to glorify God in all of life, it would be hard to obey Jesus' command to let our light so shine before men that they will see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
The Example of our God
1. We should take time for leisure because God engages in leisure:
God rested after the work of creation: Genesis 2:1-3
Thus, rest after your work.
This rest was not idleness, but was linked with satisfaction and contemplation of what he had made: Genesis 1:31
Thus, in your rest enjoy what you worked on and/or be satisfied in your completed tasks for God's glory.
God was "refreshed" by His rest: Exodus 31:17
Thus, rest in such a way as to be refreshed.
"What, then, does God's rest from work say about leisure? It affirms leisure by drawing a boundary around human work and acquisitiveness. Like God's rest, leisure frees us from the need to produce and allows us instead to enjoy what has already been made...knowing that for the moment work is unnecessary and, in fact, inappropriate" (166-167).
2. We should engage in leisure because Jesus engaged in leisure while on earth:
Jesus often retreated from the crowds to spend time alone in prayer: Mark 6:45-47
Thus, "Jesus did not reduce life to ceaseless work and evangelism By his own example, God draws a boundary to every type of work-even the work of proclaiming the gospel and helping needy people" (168).
Jesus ate many meals with people: Matthew 9:10
Jesus attended a wedding celebration: John 4
Jesus even affirmed the goodness of the celebration by turning the water into wine
"Jesus' example fits in perfectly with the Old Testament view [we will see this more below as we look at the religious festivals]. Certainly he said a great deal about the danger of possessions. But he was not an ascetic. He was happy to join in marriage celebrations and even contribute the beverage (John 2:1-11). He dined with the prosperous. Apparently he was sufficiently fond of feasts and celebrations that his enemies could spread the false rumor that he was a glutton and a drunkard (Matt. 11:19). Christian asceticism has a long history, but Jesus' life undermines its basic assumptions" (Ron Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, 97).
The Way God Created His World
3. Creation goes beyond what is strictly necessary for survival and thus affirms the pursuit of leisure-things that are not necessary for survival but add spice and beauty.
God created a garden for Adam and Eve with trees good for sight and food: Genesis 2:9.
God's creation is beautiful, and beauty is something we mainly enjoy rather than use.
Leviathan was made to sport in sea: Psalm 104:26
Wild beasts play in the mountains: Job 40:2
"God did not create a purely utilitarian world. He created a world in which much exists for the sake of beauty, delight, and refreshment. Form a utilitarian viewpoint, God did not have to create a world filled with colors of symmetrical forms; he could have made everything a drab gray. ...At the heart of God's creation is something extravagant and gratuitous, going beyond what is strictly needed for survival....God made provision for the quality of human life, not simply its survival" (179).
4. We must glorify God for his creation-all of His creation, which includes the beauty and "beyond the necessary" things which He has woven into it. But to do so, we must appreciate and enjoy these things, among other things. But this is leisure. Thus, leisure is necessary.
Follow the example of Psalm 19 and contemplate the heavens as a means of engaging in worship!
Follow Jesus' command in Matthew 6:28-29 and contemplate the lilies of the field as a means of growing in trust in God: Matthew 6:28-29
Follow the example of Psalm 104 and take note of the wonders of God's creation and praise Him for them and tell of their wonder among the nations
5. "Our mental, physical, and emotional well-being requires us to rest....Living responsibly includes living in accordance with the kind of creatures God made us to be" (207, 208).
Specific Commands, Examples, and General Endorsements
6. The Sabbath command, though perhaps not in force under the New Covenant, was a command to engage in worshipful rest from work: Exodus 20:8-11.
7. There were many days of feasting and rejoicing celebrated by the Jews, many at God's command and many others with His clear approval
Nehemiah 8:10-12: A holy day to the Lord is observed by feasting and rejoicing
Esther 9:17-19: The Jews commemorated a mighty deliverance from God by establishing a holiday for feasting and rejoicing
Numbers 28:18ff: God commanded a day of from work so that Israel could observe a "holy convocation."
Deuteronomy 14:22-29: God commanded certain religious pilgrimages to the place where He would establish His name and commanded that at that place Israel would "eat in the presence of the Lord your God...the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the first-born of your herd and your flock, in order that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always." It is especially interesting that some tithing was to help the poor (vv. 28-29), yet some of it was also to be used in this way for leisure.
From these passages and others, we learn that it is good to celebrate and even feast-at times. It seems that from the example of Israel we also have warrant for the great feast days of our own time, such as thanksgiving. And it is even appropriate, it seems to me, to feast and celebrate on a day set aside to honor the birth of Christ. For example, Israel's decision to set a day aside to celebrate the victory God gave them with feasting and rejoicing in Ezra 9:17-19 was not in response, it seems, to any specific command from God. Likewise, it seems appropriate that the church would also set aside certain holidays for to honor God for His mighty works.
8. Jesus even commanded his disciples to come away and rest: Mark 6:30-32.
Thus, we ought not make our lives ceaseless ministry. And one of our main ways of leisure and rest should be time with God in fellowship with other believers.
9. Jesus affirmed Mary's "leisure" of choosing to not work but sit at his feet and listen: Luke 10:38-42
Thus, there is a time to sit and learn. Work and daily tasks ought not always take priority over learning and even resting.
10. Paul taught that God "richly supplies us with all things to enjoy." Thus affirms that God's aim in what He gives His children is not simply to make work-whether it be evangelism or farming-profitable. He has also gives us things to enjoy, and indeed in all things there is an element of enjoyment to have.
11. Paul taught that food and marriage are created by God for the enjoyment of His people: 1 Timothy 4: 3.
Thus, eating is not simply a means of sustaining life. It is also to be leisure. Marriage is not merely a means of procreation. It is also for the joy and recreation of the spouses.
12. Paul taught that it is wrong to forbid these things and the enjoyment of them as if they were sinful: 1 Timothy 4:1-4.
13. So long as God's gifts are received with gratitude and for His glory, they are not to be rejected. Thus, we are not too view leisure such as food and sex as bad or unspiritual: 1 Timothy 4:4
Consequently, leisure is a great way to glorify God. For by giving thanks to God for leisure He gives us, such as a good meal, we are showing that God does many good things for us.
14. In fact, just as Paul condemns the downplaying of work, he also condemns the downplaying of pleasure. There is a false humility in many forms of self-denial and spirituality is not mainly found by making ourselves miserable (such as by denying leisure): Colossians 2:16-23.
15. There is a time to laugh and a time to dance: Ecclesiastes 3:4.
16. The book of Ecclesiastes apparently contains many enormous endorsements of leisure. However, I'm not sure how to interpret the book in light of its tone, and so that may not mean that these are statements of approval.
17. The Song of Solomon is a grand endorsement of romantic leisure. Cf. Also Proverbs 5:18-19.
18. Even "secular" leisure is affirmed by God. For example, reading a classic or watching the news or even going to a thoughtful movie can be done in a godly way because they are significant ways of affecting us with truth (if they teach truth) and are effective ways of making us think through the implications the truth has for all of life (if they are not teaching truth) and help us get to know our world better.
19. Likewise, Christians should create many types of leisure activities, such as solid novels, dramatic plays, and good movies because these are great ways to present the truth to people in an impacting way. The truth can be very vividly illustrated through a well thought out and developed movie plot. And this can be a stimulus to thought not only to Christians, but to non-Christians and perhaps bring them to consider the gospel in greater depth.
20. Scripture commands hospitality, which requires leisure: Romans 12:13
21. God prophesied that when He restored Israel, the giving of leisure in the form of elders sitting in the streets and young children playing abundantly in the streets would be an expression of His favor upon them: Zechariah 8:4-5; cf. also Jeremiah 30:18-19; 31:4
22. Like work, leisure was affected by fall
Can degenerate into worldliness: Luke 12:19
Degraded leisure pursuits make up much of the works of the flesh: Galatians 5:19-21
III. Working for God's Glory and Our Joy in Him
1. The aim we are to strive for in our work is to glorify God by providing for human physical and spiritual needs-ours and others-and the advancement of His kingdom.
William Perkins, a Puritan, said: "The main end of our lives is to serve God in the serving of men in the works of our callings."
2. Work ought to be useful, not done to meet artificial needs
3. Realize that work help gives meaning and fulfillment to life by providing a specific purpose and direction to the way we work out the general call to glorify God
4. Colossians 3:22-4:1 teach us several helpful things about our work
We should obey those in authority over us in all things they say, unless it is sinful
We must obey them with sincerity, not merely with externality
This means that our goal in doing what they say and doing our jobs well is not to please our co-workers or boss, but to please Christ
In this way, do your work as one who fears Christ, not one who seeks the praise of men
Base your attitude (that of doing your work to please Christ) on your knowledge that
it is from Christ that you will receive the reward of your salvation and
it is Christ whom you are actually serving in your work.
Realize that he who does wrong, such as working unjustly, will reap the consequences
Those in authority in the workplace must treat those under them with justice and fairness
They should also recognize that they are below Christ, who is in heaven and their master
5. Ephesians 6:5-9 echos many of these things from a different perspective
Employees (this is the application we make from the fact that it is addressed to slaves, as was the Colossians text) should obey those in authority in everything
and must do so in sincerity of heart
and must do so as to Christ
which means doing the will of God from the heart
In other words, render your service with good will and as to the Lord, not men
Find your power to do this in the knowledge that everything good you do will come back to you from the Lord.
Employers must do the same things to their employees
Employers must not threaten their employees
Employers must recognize that the Master over them all shows no partiality
6. Because our ability to work is a stewardship from God, we should choose our vocation on the basis of:
degree to which utilizes gifts
degree to which allows us maximum achievement for God's kingdom
potential for witness
among other things
7. Seek to glorify God in all of life by brining His truth and glory to bear upon your specific form of work-whether it be accounting, farming, engineering, art, writing, etc.
We have already seen the biblical basis for this:
All of life is God's
1 Corinthians 7:17-24 sets forth God's desire to have Christians in all walks of life and forms of vocation
We need to do this to make sure that people in all vocations see our good works and glorify God for them
The workplace is a great arena to practice the biblical virtues of justice, fairness, kindness, and concern for the poor and lowly
8. Follow God's example in your work and work like He does:
"The work of God is creative, orderly, and constructive. It is universal, benefitting people and all creatures. It declares the very nature of God...Human work can do no better than emulate God's work" (161).
9. More than that, realize that we are joint workers with God when we work for His glory: Psalm 127:1; 96:16-17.
1. Just as we can work with God, we can rest with God.
The Sabbath command is (was?) an invitation to join God in divine leisure: Exodus 31:16-17
"... the idea of sharing God's rest goes beyond observing the Sabbath....In its most profound manifestation, rest is part of what the OT calls shalom-the peace and fulfillment that God offers to people who trust in him. It is a state of soul, not simply free time or physical inactivity. This peace finds its ultimate manifestation in the redemptive work of Christ that offers us salvation from sin and inner peace even when external circumstances are distressful" (169).
2. Leisure has many personal functions we should seek in it
Refreshment, gathering thoughts, escape, entertainment, fun, etc.
3. Leisure has many social functions we should seek in it
Development of family, education, development of friendships, practicing of hospitality, developing of marriage
4. Leisure has many religious functions we should seek in it
The Sabbath command, for example, is a command for a specific kind of leisure-a leisure that is primarily worship oriented. All of our leisure activities should be worship oriented to some extent. That is, we should seek not only to glorify God in them, but to be refreshed by God. Even the most "secular" of leisure activities can be a very spiritual experience if we make ourselves aware to how God is related to what we are doing and how what He says has a bearing on it.
But there are forms of leisure that are more worship focused than others. We should seek them often as a means of fellowship with other believers, fellowship with God, and celebration of His greatness.
5. Judge worthiness of specific forms of leisure by their Godwar orientation
6. Let leisure be leisure
don't rest merely to work better
don't do work at leisure. Must be a break and escape
don't be overly competitive in leisure or will have tendency to become like work (for example, profession sports are leisure activities done as work)
let it be self rewarding
Don't have leisure pursuits be of same kind as work pursuits, else won't seem like break
7. There are many categories of leisure to be aware of, and we should utilize all of them for the glory of God
sports, games, and recreation
festivity, celebration, holidays
8. Thus, the church ought to glorify God in all forms of leisure so that He may be glorified in all of life.
We have already seen the reasons for this.
9. "Since leisure is God's gift to the human race we should foster an appetite for the best in leisure in the church, including such activities as music, reading, viewing, and attending events" 225).
10. Recognize that in leisure, we are stewarding gifts of God
time, creation, beauty, our bodies and emotions, imagination
11. Give thanks to God for the leisure you engage in
1 Timothy 4:4
12. Remember that there is much self-denial in a life devoted to Christ, and yet ascetism is not Christian.
This follows from all that we have seen. Ron Sider has an excellent statement that reconciles this tension of how we must often forgo pleasures of this creation and not in any way set our ultimate joy in them without becoming ascetics.
First, he points out that "Possessions are dangerous." That is right. There is always the danger of placing the gifts above the giver. And there is the danger of focusing so much on fun and leisure that we fail to serve the poor as we ought and make necessary sacrifices for the advances of God's kingdom. And possessions have the danger of making us too focused on this world. This world is not to be our primary focus, even if our aim is the glory of God. Our primary focus is another world, the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. Nonetheless, we ought to enjoy and glorify God through the things of this creation as well.
So Sider goes on: "Possessions are dangerous. But they are not innately evil. Biblical revelation begins with creation. And created things, God said, are good (Genesis 1).
"Biblical faith knows nothing of the ascetic notion that forsaking food, possessions or sex is inherently virtuous. To be sure, these created goods are, as St Augustine said, only rings from our beloved. They are not the Beloved himself. Sometimes particular circumstances-such as an urgent mission or the needs of the poor-may require their renunciation. But these things are part of God's good creation. Like the ring given by the Beloved, they are signs of his love. If we treasure them as good tokens of his affection instead of mistaking them for the Beloved, they are marvelous gifts which enrich our lives."
Sider then presents evidence from both the Old and New Testaments that what we have called leisure is right and good. Concerning the Old Testament he concludes, "...God wants his people to celebrate the glorious goodness of his creation." From the New Testament, he backs this up with 1 Timothy 4 and the example of Jesus, and says of Jesus, "Christian asceticism has a long history, but Jesus' life undermines its basic assumptions."
He then proceeds to an excellent summary: "...The biblical teaching on the goodness of creation does not contradict the other biblical themes we have explored. It is also true that possessions are dangerous and that God's people must practice self-denial to aid the poor and feed the hungry. But it is important to focus the biblical mandate to liberate the poor without distorting other aspects of Scripture. It is not because food, clothes, and property are inherently evil that Christians today must lower their standard of living. It is because others are starving. Creation is good. But the one who gave us this gorgeous token of his affection has asked us to share it with our sisters and brothers" (Ron Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, 96-97, emphasis added).
13. Guidelines for leisure
How do we determine what to do in our leisure time? The Puritans provide us with some good guidelines. First, the leisure activity should be of good repute. Second, it must be profitable to ourselves and others. Third, it must tend to the glory of God. Fourth, it should refresh us in mind and body. Fifth, it must be done in moderation, not excess.
The goal of leisure is not to enjoy the pleasures of the world. It is to enjoy God through the creation He has made and the gifts that He has given us in it. Leisure is God-oriented. It is supremely a relaxing in God; a seeking of enjoyment in God beyond what is strictly necessary for our spiritual well-being or the promotion of His kingdom.
Thus, much of our leisure should be what would be referred to as "spiritual." Examples are praying, meditating on Scripture, fellowship, etc. But God is also pleased with "secular" leisure if it is in accord with His commands. The main question is not whether something is spiritual or secular, but whether God's command is there or not. He made all of the world, not just the spiritual, and so we should enjoy all of the world. But we must do it with a view to enjoying God.
Thus, it is good, say, to watch a movie by non-Christians if doing so does not hinder one in following and honoring the glory of God. It is good if it is done to understand the common humanity that God has given to all. It is good if it is done to gain a perspective on something that is unique and a result of God's common grace in the film makers. It is good if done for entertainment, and the focus of the entertainment is not sinful or ungodly things. It is good if done to better understand the culture in which one lives so that one can more effectively engage it with the gospel. It is good if done to enjoy the creativity and imagination that God has given to our human minds. In short, it is good if in doing so one succeeds in expressing and experiencing the saving and common grace of God without violating His commands.
14. Does it help to know these things?
It is profoundly helpful to have a solid Christian theology of leisure because our tendency is to downplay the importance of leisure. And so we either feel guilty when we engage in leisure or minimize the amount of time we spend in leisure. But we need leisure. Not only does God command it, but we need it to be refreshed and to express the fullness of our humanity for the glory of God. And so when leisure suffers, we loose out on these benefits-indeed, these essentials.
But when we understand what leisure is and that it is right and good, then we are free to engage in it and engage in it well. It is very liberating to know that it is pleasing to God to have time where you really don't accomplish anything in a quantitative sense. This gives us the freedom to simply relax and have fun and develop and enjoy other aspects of our humanity.
But how does leisure square with Paul's command in 1 Corinthians 15:52 to always abound in the work of the Lord? I have two thoughts. First, I think that leisure can be one thing involved in doing the "work of the Lord." For example, is a missionary who takes a night to stroll in the woods and think abandoning the work of the Lord for that night? Not if one of his aims is to enjoy and honor God through a time of quietness in his creation. In this sense, leisure is never truly done for its own sake. All things are to be done for the glory of God, and leisure is no different.
Second, as long as leisure is done for the glory of God and in accordance with His commands, it is not at odds with always abounding in His work because it does serve His work. The missionary who relaxes in the woods for a night will be more refreshed for the proclamation of the gospel, and it is legitimate for that to be one of his aims. But that is not to be the main aim of leisure-the main aim is to be the enjoyment of God for God's own sake, not for the sake of work done for God.MP