by Lee Anderson Jr. —
Up until now, in seeking to develop a basic theological perspective on hobbies, we have looked primarily at things to avoid:
- We are to avoid allowing our hobbies to monopolize our time.
- We are to avoid hobbies that cause us to engage with or otherwise promote sin.
- We are to avoid pursuing hobbies that in any way foster idolatry.
- We are to avoid hobbies that may become a cause of stumbling to fellow believers.
- We are to avoid irresponsible financial investment in our hobbies.
Now it is time to turn our attention to that which we should seek out in the enjoyment of our hobbies. Above all else, in every dimension of life, believers are called to glorify God. That calling extends to even the most mundane of life’s activities (1 Corinthians 10:31) and certainly encompasses our involvement in hobbies. The question we must consider, however, is how the believer is to glorify God in the pursuit of his or her hobbies and personal interests.
Before we address this question, though, we need to consider, from a biblical viewpoint, God’s glory and, relatedly, what it means to glorify Him. The subject of God’s glory is one of the most prevalent in the biblical text. In the Old Testament the Hebrew root כבד is that which is most commonly associated with the concept of God’s glory. This root has the central meaning of “weight” or “heaviness,” which can apply in a literal sense (e.g., 1 Samuel 4:18), but more often speaks figuratively of the “weightiness” associated with honor or prestige (roughly similar to the word gravitas that we have adopted from Latin).1 Where it is used in reference to God, it draws attention to His worthiness of respect and worship, as well as to the greatness of His reputation. His glory is “an essential quality” and is “not some accidental feature of God’s character” (see especially 1 Chronicles 29:11).2 The Lord is innately and intrinsically glorious, in unmatched and unfathomable measure (cf. Psalms 113:4; 138:5; Isaiah 6:3).
Accordingly, to glorify God is not somehow to give Him greater glory; we are incapable so to do. Rather, to glorify God is to recognize, to magnify, to declare, to draw attention to, and to worship in response to His inherent glory (see, e.g., Psalm 29:2). As such, glorifying God in our hobbies requires us to direct our hobbies in accord with this principle of acknowledging the inherent and immense glory of God. And, as we have mentioned before in this series, we need to be careful to avoid things which detract from God’s glory (cf. Isaiah 42:8; 48:11).
There are three main ways, I think, in which believers can direct their hobbies to glorify God. I am by no means suggesting that this list is exhaustive; however, it is my hope that these categories will be useful in fostering biblical thinking on the subject of how we can glorify God in the pursuit of our hobbies and personal interests.
First, God is glorified in our enjoyment of His creation. Psalm 19:1–6 teaches that God’s glory is showcased in the heavens, attested to by the vastness, grandeur, orderliness, and beauty of what He created. This is only one illustration (albeit a highly fitting and obvious one); God’s glory is likewise on display in every element of creation—from the beauty of the wild flowers, to the majesty of the forests, to the curious ways of countless different animals, to the intricacy of the human body and its systems. All of creation speaks to the power and wisdom of our glorious God (cf. Romans 1:20). Thus, when we engage in hobbies that focus our attention on the things God has made, we are compelled to contemplate God’s glory and, provided our hearts are rightly aligned with Him, may be driven to worship. This is true for so many different hobbies and the people who pursue them, whether it be the retiree who spends quiet hours on his back porch bird watching, the adventurous young adult who hikes challenging trails among California’s towering redwood trees, or the little child who collects rocks, fascinated by the brilliant colors and sparkly minerals on display. As long as these activities (and others like them) serve to direct our thoughts Godward, then God surely can be glorified in all of them.
Second, God is glorified in the meaningful use and cultivation of our God-given talents and abilities. We as Christians might think more about exercising and cultivating spiritual gifts (e.g., 1 Corinthians 12), but the fact remains that our natural talents and interests (or at least the ability to develop them) likewise come from a beneficent and gracious God. Using those gifts is, in their own way, a means of glorifying God, because they display God’s creative wisdom in us. The man who takes up wood crafting as a hobby can glorify God in the things he carves through his attention to beauty, precision, and detail. So too, the woman who, in her free time, composes music on the piano in her living room can honor the Lord through her cultivation of the interest that she has in music. It does not have to be “worship music” (a nebulous and frequently abused term) to honor God; rather, God can be glorified in the mere exercise of the talents and abilities that He has given to people as a part of His generous common grace.3 Moreover, when Christians rightly recognize God as the source of their giftedness, and seek to cultivate their unique talents and abilities specifically because they are gifts from God, giving Him the credit He is due for His benevolence, they highlight God’s grace and, in doing so, magnify His glory.
Third, God is glorified when we pursue opportunities to enjoy other people made in His image. The Bible repeatedly affirms that all human beings are created to be God’s image bearers (Genesis 1:26–27; 9:6; James 3:9) and that they are made to live in community with one another. By pursuing hobbies that allow us to cultivate meaningful and caring relationships with others, we can further God’s purpose for human community. This principle is true whether it concerns developing relationships with other believers, with the goal of building them up in their faith in Jesus Christ, or pursuing relationships with nonbelievers, with the intent of showing them God’s great love and reaching out to them with the Gospel of Christ. (We will talk about both of these at greater length in the next part of this series.) That is not to say that hobbies must necessarily be group activities. Some hobbies are better pursued (at least most of the time) individually instead of in community—and that is perfectly alright. Nevertheless, some hobbies do provide us with a special opportunity for glorifying God though our relationships with others.
Regardless of our specific interests, in all that we do, we are to glorify God, seeking first to truly apprehend His glory as spoken of in His word and as displayed in creation, and then to direct others to the wonders of His glory. May the Lord grant us grace to faithfully carry out this awesome task in every dimension of our lives—including in our hobbies.
1See C. John Collins, “כבד,” in volume 2 of New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, edited by Willem A. VanGemeran (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 577.
2M. R. Gordon, “Glory,” in volume 2 of The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, edited by Merrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1975), 731.
3Relatedly, the enjoyment that many of us have in hobbies that involve collecting things generally involves a measure of recognition of the God-given talents and abilities of other people. A person may not be able to paint or sculpt with marked skill, but he or she can acquire the artwork of others and gain an appreciation for the God-given talents of the artists. Likewise, a person may not have exceptional athletic ability, but he or she can collect the sports cards of those who do. The key, in such cases, is that it is the Giver of the gift, rather than the recipient thereof, who is to get the ultimate honor. While we are certainly right to give an appropriate measure of credit to the individuals who put forth the diligent effort and maintain the self-discipline required to produce a work of art or achieve some athletic feat, neither the accomplishment itself (whether it be a work of art, an athletic achievement, etc.) nor the one who accomplished it ought to be idolized. The Lord alone should be recognized as the Supreme enabler behind any human accomplishment of real worth, and as the Giver of the talent and ability required to achieve it.