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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 24, 2003
Holy & Free, Part 6 – Leisure
What do you do for leisure? Some of you will immediately think of one particular activity while others of you will think of a whole list of things. Over the years Christians have responded in radically different ways to leisure.
Some never considered it because the business of daily existence left little time for what we commonly think of as leisure activities. A farmer has to make sure that his animals are taken care of every day. Daily chores in doing just that would not leave time for sitting around somewhere and watching a movie in the evening. And who wants to stay up late when you need to get up at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m.? However, I don’t believe we have any farmers in the congregation, and we live in a time when technology has drastically reduced the amount of time it takes to complete daily chores, so there is much more time for leisure. I think it is safe to say that everyone present in this room does give consideration to leisure time activities. We have plenty of time to pursue activities that are not compulsory. Leisure is being able to do what you want instead of what you must.
Some have condemned leisure activities as tools of the devil and a waste of time. They will even quote verses such as Ephesians 5:16 that we are to “redeem the time because the days are evil” as Biblical proof of their point. While we must admit that a lot of time can be wasted and that the devil will use leisure activities to get people to sin, but that does not that mean that leisure itself is wrong. This view is popular with the workaholic and the driven type of personality, but it is out of balance scripturally.
Another view takes the opposite extreme in which leisure activities become the focus of life. We have all met these people. These are the kinds of people that seem like the only thing they can talk about is their hobby. It would include sports fanatics that know the minutia of statistics about all the players on their team, or those that work only so they can fund their hobby. Some of these people can also be type A personalities, but again, the problem is one of balance. Their focus of life is centered on themselves and their personal enjoyment. I could also mention those people that just like to “rest.” That is a nice way of saying they like to be lazy, but we will deal with that next week when we talk about labor.
The Bible gives a balance to life. The workaholic is wrong because God Himself set the pattern for us when He rested from his labor on the 7th day (Genesis 2:2). Jesus made it clear in Mark 7:27 when He said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath that this was not because God needed to rest, but because man needed it. The Sabbath had a dual purpose. First, it set aside a day in which man could focus his attention on the worship of God. That is why is was designated as a “holy day” (Exod. 20:10) of “solemn rest” that they might humble their souls (Lev. 16:31). There is time needed to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10). Many people purposely keep active or at least will keep some source of audio stimulation on – radio, TV or music – because they do not want to be left alone with their thoughts. Being quiet and reflecting on the God who made you and your responsibilities toward Him can be very disconcerting if you are not walking well with the Lord. The Sabbath was also a day for a “holy convocation” (Lev. 23:3). God was to be the focus of men’s hearts every day and in everything they did, but the Sabbath was a special day in which people could gather together for worship. The Sabbath was to be a day that was to be “celebrated” (Exod. 31:16), and not be the burden that the Pharisees had made by Jesus’ time. That brings up its second purpose which was to provide rest from the daily labor of life.
Man needs to have a break from his continual labor. We all know this intuitively or by personal experience, but psychological studies also show that when people continually labor for too many days in a row, they become less productive as their bodies and minds decline as fatigue sets in. Even in the atheistic communist countries that could care less about God or His commands, it was found that workers need a day of rest every week.
The question before us today, however, is not about the need for time off of work, but rather, what should be done with that time off. What is or is not proper leisure?
Leisure in Scripture
There are several interesting words used to bring out the idea of leisure in the Bible.
The first word is the verb, eukairew / eukaireo, and its cognate noun eukairia / eukairia. These words can be translated as opportunity, seasonable time, spend time or leisure. One of its more interesting usages in relationship to the concept of leisure is in Mark 6:31 where it is used in relationship to another word that reflects on our concept of leisure. “And He (Jesus) said to them [his disciples], ‘Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)” That last phrase could be translated that “they did not even have leisure to eat.” They were so busy they were not even getting opportunity to do one of the more common and necessary aspects of life – eating. Perhaps many of you feel like that at times. It is a strange reality that a society which enjoys more leisure time than most people in history could even imagine thrives on fast food. Why? Because we are often so rushed to do the next thing, which is often a leisure activity. Grab a burger and get to the game. Perhaps it is good to be reminded that eating and leisure go together. Sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal with your family and friends.
Jesus and His disciples were extremely busy, and Jesus saw the need for them all to get a break. That is why He called for them to go away with Him to a lonely place where they could rest, which is the word, anapauw / anapauo. In this context it means to cease from labor in order to recover and collect strength. It is often translated as “be refreshed.” It can also refer to ceasing from any movement, keeping quiet, and even be an aspect of sleeping (Mark 14:41). Jesus and His disciples needed to go on a retreat. All of us need that at times even if only for a day or two of rest. But be careful here, many people expend more energy playing during their vacation than they do at work. They come home from vacation tired instead of refreshed.
Related words are the noun, katapausiV / katapausis, which refers to a place of rest, and its cognate verb, katapauw / katapauo, which means to “give rest” or “take rest.” This is the word used in Hebrews 4:4,8, 10 to refer to Genesis 2:2 that God rested on the seventh day. God ceased His work of creation and was quiet on the seventh day. That is the pattern that He set for us in following His example.
Keeping Leisure Proper
Now that you know that it is okay to have leisure time and relax, what kinds of leisure activities are acceptable. All the general principles we learned in the first week of this series apply. Ask yourself those self-evaluating questions as you consider any particular activity. Why do you want to do it? What purpose will it serve? Will it build me or others up in Christ? (1 Cor. 10:23) Will it be a help or hindrance to holy living? (Heb. 12:1-3) Would it cause others to stumble? (Rom. 14) Does it bring me into bondage or cause me to lose control? (1 Cor. 6:12). Is it morally positive, neutral or negative? Am I using it as a covering for my own sin? (1 Pet. 2:16) Does it violate my conscience (Rom. 14:23) Would I do this if Jesus was with me? (1 John 2:5,6 – Remember Christian that Jesus is always with you). Will it glorify God? (1 Cor. 10:31)
Let’s consider some of the more common leisure activities and see how some of these principles might apply.
Sports. Most sports activities should be fine things to attend or to participate in yourself. Sports events can be wonderful opportunities for Christian outreach. They are a non-threatening context for developing relationships with non-Christians. You can talk to others about their beliefs while your children play. You can go out after a game and talk about spiritual matters with your team mates or members of the opposing team. Groups as Athletes in Action put on special exhibitions and give testimonies during breaks in the play. Many missions agencies will often uses sports as a means of developing relationships in the community. Sports can be used for teaching positive values such as commitment, self-discipline and team work, We might also consider that in a society that has become increasingly sedentary, getting some exercise is a good thing, though a lot of sports enthusiasts are spectators instead of participants. As one man quipped about football, you have 60 -100,000 people (and perhaps a million or more if you add in TV coverage) who are in need of exercise watching about 40 men who are in need of some rest. Witnessing opportunities and getting exercise are good things, but you do need to consider if the sport becomes controlling in your life. That is true whether you are a spectator or athlete.
What is the cost you in time and finances to participate or watch this sport? How does that compare with other areas of life? Are you keeping your priorities in proper order? We all have met people who spend more on their sports interest than they do in making sure some of the basic things of daily life are taken care of. How wise is it to go into debt in order to be involved in a sports interest? Yet many people do. I wonder what they will say when they are called to give an account to God of the stewardship He has entrusted to them?
Time is a big factor in this. Does your interest interfere with other things that should be of higher priority. The classic in this is the proverbial “football widow.” You could attach that title to many other sports. Men who neglect their wives because some sport is more important to them than their spouse. There are some women who do the same to their husbands. God calls on husbands to love their wives in a self-sacrificial manner (Eph. 5:24-33). Wives should be a blessing to their husband (Prov. 31), not a curse.
Even more serious than this are those that place more importance on their sports activities than on God. That may seem harsh to some, but this is a serious matter. This is not to say that God will condemn you if you miss a Sunday worship service on occasion, but each of us should give serious consideration to the admonishment in Hebrews 10:24,25 about “consider[ing] how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, [and] not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging [one another]; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” I hate to say it, but we have had several families over the years that have ended up dropping out of all church involvement because it conflicted with their children’s sports activities. You are free to enjoy football, baseball, soccer and whatever sport you are interested in, but you had better give serious reconsideration of your involvement when participation in them gives the message that sports are more important than God or fulfilling what He says are to be the priorities in the Christian life.
Another consideration is the environment in which the sport activity will be taking place. Not all sports take place in a family friendly atmosphere, and frankly, I don’t think I need to be anyplace that I could not take my kids. Perhaps I can handle the sinful actions of others, but I don’t find it helpful to my Christian walk to be some place in which people are drunk, being foul-mouthed, insulting and screaming for people to get physically injured.
When it comes to my kids participation in sports, I want them to learn how to play the game well, but even more important are learning teamwork and good sportsmanship. If they are on a team or in a league in which winning is the primary goal, then they are being taught moral values that are opposite of the virtues I want them to learn, so I will pull them out of it. I mention this simply to make the point that as Christians we should always be looking at the larger picture of what is happening and comparing that to what God would want in our lives and then make our decisions accordingly.
Games are similar to sports, but they do not require any athletic ability. A certain amount of physical ability is required in order to play organized sports such as football, basketball, baseball, etc., or even individual sports such as golf, tennis and swimming, or outdoor sports such as backpacking or hunting. Games require little physical ability, but often require at least some mental effort. The recreation involved is found in either beating chance or showing superior strategy against an opponent. There are all sorts of games: card games, video games, board games, and mental challenges such as mazes and crossword puzzles.
While many games seem fairly mindless, there are still all sorts of things the Christian should consider. Again, the same list of general questions should be asked, but let’s get more specific. Many card games can be a lot of fun, even the various forms of poker, but what about gambling games or those that lead to gambling? While I cannot find any Scripture that speaks against playing a game of chance for fun, I can find lots of Scriptures that speak to the issue of finances. If we remember that we are only stewards of what God has entrusted to us and for which we will give an account, then we will be more serious about how we use our finances. If we have any math sense, we know that gambling is never an investment. As one person quipped, “the lottery is a tax on those who are mathematically challenged.” At the heart of gambling for financial gain is both selfishness and a refusal to follow God’s plan for gaining wealth.
First, understand that Christians should not be focused on pursing wealth. There is nothing wrong with being wealthy or gaining it as a result of good business practices and financial choices, but the Christian has far more important things to be focused on. Matthew 6:33 tells that if we seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness and then God will meet the needs of daily life. Proverbs 23:4 warns, “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration [of it.] 5 When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For [wealth] certainly makes itself wings, Like an eagle that flies [toward] the heavens.” Proverbs 8:22 adds, “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth, And does not know that want will come upon him.” How God wants us to gain finances is by labor (Prov. 13:11) and diligence (Prov. 10:4). God is against those who seek to gain wealth hastily (Prov. 21:5; 28:20,22).
Perhaps in the future I will deal with evils associated with gambling in more detail, but for today, it should be enough to know that godly wisdom is against it. Therefore, gaming for the purpose of gaining wealth would not be proper for the Christian. Don’t get into betting, and if you are going to play some game of chance, then remove the financial element. Play for M&M’s, plastic chips or something of that nature.
There so many games of all types that are educational in nature that the word “edutainment” has been coined to describe them. There are games of all types to help you with everything from math, history, and science to languages and typing skills. Even here the Christian must be careful to make sure that what is being taught matches what is true. A game about dinosaurs that teaches evolution could be detrimental in instilling a Biblical worldview in your children. A good game will reinforce godly values. But should a Christian play a game like Sticky Situations that requires you to lie in order to win? Other games can be good or bad depending how you play them. Trouble can be played viciously or as a fun game of chance. Monopoly can teach you some good economic lessons, but also could be played viciously or as a strategic game of chance. We have used both in teaching our children the consequences of being mean and the virtue of being kind. Winning is not everything.
What about role playing games? There are many, many kinds of these now including fantasy (RuneQuest), comic book (Pajama Sam), historical (Gettysburg), creative (Simm City), science fiction (Star Trek), horror (Realms of Haunting) and lots of various sports games. Some of these are board games, many others are computer or a Play Station type video games. Many games are fine, but there are also many that are openly demonic (Diablo Hellfire) or more subtle, but still evil. There are those that try to defend questionable games such as Dungeons & Dragons as being okay or even good. You could go through all the evaluation questions we have already given, but I think you can decide for yourself by asking two simple questions. 1. Is your fantasy role characterized by righteousness? 2. Would Jesus want to play the game with you? A negative answer to either should end the argument about whether it is a game you should play.
Entertainment is another large area of leisure activities. By entertainment I am referring to those things in which you would be the audience. This would include movies, TV, theater and concerts. What I have already said about sports and games applies to all types of entertainment as do the principles I talked about last week concerning music. You must evaluate not only the use of your time and finances, but also the moral message of the entertainment. Some entertainment is glorifying to God. Some is neutral and some is nothing less than evil.
I will not spend a lot of time on this subject because Ricky Jordan spent several months going over principles that need to be applied to what we watch based on Wayne Wilson’s book, Worldly Amusements. I believe there are two copies left on the back table. I personally purchased a couple cases of these books so every family in the church could have one if they wanted it. If you have not read that book yet and need a copy, let me know and we will find a copy for you to read. I do want to briefly bring out through a series of questions some of the major issues that we as Christians need to think through before we go to the theater, a concert, see a movie or watch something on T.V.
Is the message of the entertainment good, neutral or evil?
Is the message compatible with a Biblical worldview?
Is the message truthful and refrains from presenting lies as truth?
Does the entertainment use evil methods to present its message?
Does it violate the “law of love”? Does it require others to commit acts of sin in the producing of the entertainment?
Does it denigrate our Lord?
Does is stimulate sinful interests?
Let me stress again, the Christian should ask these questions before they subject themselves to the entertainment. Read reviews and ask others before you go or watch. Web sites such as and are very helpful in letting you know the moral content of a film before you see it.
In the back, next to the copies of Worldly Amusements that are left are copies of Wayne’s Recommended List of films for Christians. I will not pass out a list of films you should not see. That list would be too long and some of you would just want to argue about some film I put on the list that you think is good entertainment. You do not have to answer to me about your entertainment choices. You have to answer to God, because He is the one that judges, not me, and He knows your heart.
As Wayne wrote in his book, “Ultimately, the whole issue comes down to your perspective, your attitude toward evil. How do you see evil? Does your heart see uncleanness and impurity as God does? Does your heart ache, along with His, over sin and immorality? The Scriptures says simply, ‘Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good’ (Romans 12:9). To abhor something is to want nothing to do with it. Is that where your heart is? Or have the pleasures of the world, as set forth in the moves, shaped your heart to tolerate what is evil, instead of abhorring it? If so, repentance may be in order before you proceed.”
This is true for all forms of entertainment and leisure activities, not just movies.
Godly Leisure. If leisure is the time we have available to do what we want instead of what we must, let me challenge you with a completely different way of using your leisure time. Up to this point we have talked about leisure in terms of what you might want to do to please yourself. How much do you want to know God and serve Him? What better use could there be for a large part of leisure than in Bible study, prayer, and serving Him with whatever spiritual gifts He has entrusted to you?
When we add in the fact that God desires us to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil (Romans 16:19), then it would be wise of us to use our leisure time in pursuing what will help increase in our understanding and practice of what is good and refrain from things that would remove our innocence of what is evil. The idea of “innocence” here is being knowledgeable or personally acquainted with what is evil. In other words, a wise person knows the characteristics of cleanliness and does not have to put his head in the trash can to know that it stinks.
People often say they do not have time to read, study, pray or serve, yet they seem to always have time for the other types of leisure activities I have mentioned this morning. You can do what you want in your leisure time, so again, how much do you want to know God and serve Him? The fact that you are here this morning tells me that you have at least some interest in this. Are you balanced in your leisure activities or does selfishness hinder you from keeping God’s priorities?
Keeping Leisure Balanced
Leisure is a God given blessing. The industrial and technological advances in American society in the 20th and 21st centuries have made available amounts of leisure time that were unknown in prior history and are still beyond the imagination of most people. Most people in the world today still work six days a week from sunrise to sunset just take care of the daily necessities of living. Many Americans think they deserve to have four to six hours of leisure per day to relax, be entertained, and do whatever is pleasing to them. Such leisure is a great blessing you may enjoy, but you do not “deserve” it. God expects you to be a good steward of what you have. Are you thankful for the leisure time you have whether it is a little or a lot? What are you doing with the leisure time that you have? Are you using it wisely?
Rest is good and needed for the refreshment of body and mind. Even Jesus needed rest, but we are not to be lazy.
Sports can be great and participation in them can be good exercise that is often needed. But sports are not to be central in our lives. They should never become controlling of your leisure time or detrimental to your pursuit of holiness.
Games can be a lot of fun and many are also educational. If we use them wisely they can also be helpful in developing godly character. The Christian needs to be careful to play games for the right reasons. Gambling is not wise stewardship, and we should not involve ourselves with games that are contrary to godliness. If you don’t think Jesus would play the game with you, then find something else to do.
Entertainment can be a nice way to relax, but we must be careful of the message and moral values that come with it. Is it good, neutral or evil?
Study is good, but even here we must be cautious for as Ecclesiastes 12:12 warns, “the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion [to books] is wearying to the body.”
Balance is not achieved by keeping a schedule of the activities you do and making sure you put in so much time into each slot. Balance is maintained by becoming increasingly sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit so that you will keep the priorities that God has set for your life as He desires, and God does want your leisure activities to not only include Bible study, prayer and service, but also rest and recreation.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children : Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times “consider” or “consideration” are said. 2) Discuss with your parents the things that you should considered before and while participating in any leisure activity.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others
What is leisure? How do you spend your leisure time? What does the Bible say about leisure? Explain the Sabbath and any meaning it has for Christians. What questions should be asked when evaluating any particular leisure activity? What are positive aspects to sports? What cautions need to be heeded in sports? What are positive aspects to games? What does the Bible say about gambling? How good of a steward are you? What cautions apply to edutainment games? What cautions apply to Role Playing Games? What kinds of entertainment do you enjoy? What cautions need to be heeded in your entertainment choices? What do you find offensive in entertainment? Why? Can sin be justified by calling it “art”? What should you do before being entertained to keep from being offended? What are some godly things you can do during your leisure time? What are your priorities in life? What are the priorities God wants you to have? How can you keep all of these priorities properly balanced in a way pleasing to God?
Sermon Notes – August 24, 2003
Holy & Free Part 6 – Leisure
Leisure in Scripture
Keeping Leisure Proper
Role Playing Games
Keeping Leisure Balanced
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