Toward a Theology of Hobbies, Part 2

by Lee Anderson Jr.

Time is a precious commodity. We usually can find ways (at least theoretically) to gain more of other resources (such as money). But with time, there is invariably a fixed limit. There are only 24 hours in a day. There are only 365 days in a year. And there are only so many years in a human life. Moses, who wrote Psalm 90, recognized this, saying, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years” (verse 10).1 Although Moses himself exceeded this count considerably (see Deuteronomy 34:7), he understood that people typically have no more than 70 or 80 years or so on this earth. Moses’ keen grasp of this reality feeds into his prayerful petition in verse 12 of his psalm: “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” Herein we see clearly the supreme importance of being careful in the use of our time, because each of us has only so much.

This idea is echoed in the New Testament, in Paul’s instructions to the Ephesian church:

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15–16

The wise use of our time is a principle we have to consider carefully when it come to our hobbies. In my last entry, I introduced a number of questions for consideration in seeking to develop a theological outlook on hobbies. Whether or not a hobby is a wise use of our time may not prove to be the most important question we can ask in developing our theological perspective, but it is one of the most basic and most obvious. So it makes sense to address it first.

Some of us have more free time in our lives available for the enjoyment of our hobbies than others. And different phases of life, likewise, are likely to be accompanied by more or less free time to invest in our personal interests. For example, my father-in-law recently retired from public service. He now has much more time available to pursue his hobby of model railroading than he did when he had an eight-to-five job.

Because of differences in individual circumstances, we probably cannot say definitively how much time is “too much” to devote to any particular hobby. But we can employ a number of biblical principles to help us make decisions, as individual Christians, about the wise use of our time, and how much of it we can responsibly invest in our hobbies.

First, we must make sure that the time we devote to our hobbies does not infringe upon the responsibilities the Lord has given us. All of us have varying levels of responsibilities to our families, our churches, our employers, and our communities. Our hobbies may, in some cases, conveniently overlap with those areas of responsibilities. For example, there are some couples who share a hobby and use that as an outlet for investing in each other’s lives. (The same can be said for parents who share a hobby with their children.) Similarly, to give an example from my own life, I enjoy writing on theological topics as a hobby. It just so happens that this was what I was trained to do professionally.

However, the moment a hobby begins to take time away from obligations the Lord has given us, it becomes a problem. If, in the interest of pursuing our hobbies, we neglect to give to our families the time they need and to provide for them (cf. 1 Timothy 5:8), or become negligent in our jobs (perhaps failing to show up on time or put in an honest day’s work), or become lax in our church attendance (cf. Hebrews 10:24–25), the hobby risks becoming a sinful investment. Years ago, I knew a believer who, as a hobby, raised and showed horses. In and of itself, there was nothing objectionable about that. However, the horse shows often took place on weekends, and over time the person’s attendance at church became less and less frequent to accommodate more horse shows. The way in which the hobby, a fine thing in its own right, became prioritized over fellowshipping with other believers ultimately led to unwise and harmful choices in the use of this believer’s limited time.

Second, relatedly, we should not allow our hobbies to become a source of laziness. One of the reasons most of us pursue hobbies is to find a source of relaxation and enjoyment, which is good. True leisure is a healthy thing (see Steve Golden’s review of Josef Pieper’s Leisure the Basis of Culture for further thoughts on this point). Many of our hobbies provide an opportunity for rest, which can help us become refreshed for the work God has given us—whether that be at our jobs, in the home caring for children, or in ministry.

However, when a hobby deters us from being industrious altogether, it is problematic. Scripture, especially the book of Proverbs, provides no shortage of warnings against laziness (see, for instance, 6:9–12; 10:4–5; 12:11, 24; 14:23; 19:15; 20:4; 24:30–34; 26:15), often noting that those who neglect to work come to ruin. Moreover, laziness can open the door to a host of other opportunities for sin (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6–13). Our hobbies, even if not industrious in their own right, by providing an outlet for leisure in appropriate measure, should help us to cope better with our work, whatever that may be. Accordingly, our hobbies really should aid us in guarding against laziness, rather than promoting it.

Third, we must be careful not to let our hobbies distract us from having a heavenward focus. Colossians 3:1–2 teaches, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Notwithstanding the fact that our hobbies can have a distinctly spiritual purpose (in that they are coupled with thanksgiving to God spurred on by the enjoyment of the blessings He has given us and/or in that they provide an opportunity to minister to fellow believers or reach out to nonbelievers), our hobbies often involve very mundane things, things that are exclusively of this world. While recognizing that God “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17) and that our hobbies thus do not need to be centered solely on that which is inherently spiritual, we must be careful to maintain a proper balance. Our hobbies should never become so consuming that they obscure our vision of heavenly things. Our hobbies are there for our benefit and pleasure during our temporary, earthly lives—lives which are to be focused on “the things above.” The hobbies are not to be a source of obsession or an end in and of themselves. This principle goes a long way in helping us to consider how much time to devote to our hobbies.

Ultimately, we must remember that we are accountable to the Lord in the use of our time (2 Corinthians 5:10). That should not deter us from having hobbies, but should encourage us to keep things in proper perspective—enjoying our hobbies in a responsible, measured fashion in the time God has allotted us.

1All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, is from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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