Toward a Theology of Hobbies, Part 1

by Lee Anderson Jr. —

The majority of people in the United States have been dealing with shutdowns and other pandemic-related restrictions for almost a year. (For a helpful visual of these restrictions, see the map here.) Millions have faced layoffs or had their work hours reduced. Group activities have been delayed or cancelled. Entertainment venues such as theaters, sports arenas and stadiums, and theme parks have been shuttered or operating at minimal capacity. Travel for both business and vacations has dropped off significantly. In short, a lot of the things we used to do regularly no longer fill our lives.

One result of all this is that people are finding themselves with a lot of free time on their hands. And while some have, out of necessity, used that time to attempt to make ends meet in whatever way they can (sometimes taking on several different odd jobs at once), many others have used their newfound free time to reinvest in old hobbies or to find a new hobby.

Almost all of us have at least one hobby, and some of us have several. Some hobbies we participate in casually, while others we voraciously pursue. Regardless, most hobbies are not in any way distinctly religious. As Christians, many of us have the same kinds of hobbies as our nonbelieving friends, which is a testament to the fact that many hobbies are focused on the enjoyment of different aspects of God’s created world or human creativity. As such, our hobbies are dependent, in one way or another, on God’s common grace to all humanity. That said, even though hobbies are not a distinctly Christian activity, it is still possible to train ourselves to look at them through the proverbial lens of a Christian worldview, considering them in the light of biblical teaching.1

There is virtually no mention of hobbies, as such, in Scripture (references to the activities of Solomon in 1 Kings 4:32–33 and of Tabitha in Acts 9:39 may be exceptions). However, Scripture still gives us many principles that can help us in evaluating the worth of hobbies and considering which hobbies are good and constructive for believers.

Over the next several weeks, we will look together at many of these biblical principles, considering several questions that help to illumine what the Scriptures teach about hobbies:

  • Is our hobby a wise use of our time?
  • Does our hobby cause us to engage with or otherwise encourage sin?
  • Does our hobby risk becoming an idol or a distraction?
  • Will our hobby potentially offend a fellow Christian?
  • Is our hobby a responsible use of the financial and material resources God has given us?
  • Does our hobby glorify God—whether in the enjoyment of His creation, in the meaningful use of God-given talents, or in the enjoyment of other people made in God’s image?
  • Does our hobby provide the opportunity for ministering to others—either in seeking to edify fellow believers, or in reaching out to those who are lost and in need of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
  • Do we actually enjoy our hobby?

As we work through these questions together, it is my hope that we not only will gain a better understanding of our hobbies and interests in the light of Scripture, but that we also will develop a better understanding of what truly pleases our Lord God, and so grow in our delight in honoring Him (cf. Ephesians 5:10; Colossians 1:9–10).

†Photo by Filippo Andolfatto on Unsplash

1For now, I am assuming that hobbies, whether focused on spiritual matters or otherwise, are a valid pursuit for the believer, and that it is possible to glorify God even in the most mundane of activities (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31). In the next several entries, I will present some of the biblical grounding for these assumptions.  

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