We live in a privileged age in which we can indulge, and in fact are expected to indulge, in all kinds of sports and hobbies. However, many of these pursuits may seem like they do not honor God. Christians often question the validity of how they spend the hours they are not working or evangelizing. How can we as Christians determine if we are sinning in the sports and hobbies we participate in? That’s the kind of question I attempt to answer here…
Are hobbies or sports a waste of time or sinful?
Hobbies and sports can be a waste of time, but they are not necessarily a waste of time. They can be sinful, they’re not necessarily sinful. So, I think God has given us pleasures to enjoy in this world and sports and hobbies are among those pleasures, except for the few for whom they’re a real vocation, but for most of us these things are pleasures and I think we’re free to enjoy the pleasures God gives us. However, like any good pleasure, they can become captivating, they can become idolatrous, they can take on too prominent a position in our lives. So, God didn’t put us here on this earth so we could enjoy sports and recreational, God didn’t put us in this world so we could go about our hobbies. We have bigger work to do in this world. So I think we have to measure our hobbies in light of the main purpose for which God has created us.
How do we know if a hobby or sport is sinful or becoming an idol?
I’d say a hobby has tipped over into idolatry when it’s a thing that really has your heart. When you are more interested in doing that than the more important things in life. So, let’s say you’re a parent. Your children, your spouse, your children, that’s your foremost responsibility in life. If your hobby has so taken over that now you’re neglecting your marriage, you’re neglecting you’re children, that’s a very good sign that it has now tipped over into idolatry. It has taken on undue prominence in your life. There’s other things that God calls us to that, we have to work, God didn’t put us in this world to relax, he put us in this world to work, right. He created Adam and Eve, told them to be fruitful and multiply, to spread out over the earth and to subdue it. That’s a call to work, not to relaxation. So, relaxation is a part of it, but the key to what we do is work, we labor. Labor is harder now than it was in a perfect world, but it’s still what we’re called to do. So, I think it’s just that balance of how much time, how much attention? When I’m not thinking about anything else, is my heart just constantly drawn back to what I could be doing recreationally? Those are the sorts of keys I’d look for in my own heart, in my own mind.
What are some questions I can ask myself about my hobbies or leisure activities to see if they are becoming sinful?
I think the first question you always need to ask is, is this sinful? So, there are some hobbies that other people may participate in that we as Christians can not. And I’m not going to give you a list of what those are, but certainly some people’s passions and their pursuits we would deem ungodly and unbiblical and therefore unworthy of a Christian. After that, I think we’re well into this area of wisdom. Is it wise for me to give myself to this hobby? Is this a wise pursuit for me? And, how much of it is wise? Would it be wise for me to take less time to give to this hobby? It might be wise for me to give more time to this hobby. And, I think at times in my life where I haven’t had a hobby, I’ve actually suffered from it, because I’ve needed that relaxation, I’ve needed that downtime. And after that, I think once we’re away from the area of clear biblical mandate and we just don’t know what’s wise, I think we’re free to follow our passions, follow our desires. You say, what do I want to do? Do I want to pursue this hobby? How much of it would be helpful in my life? I think we can, you know, we’ve got the Bible, we’ve got the Holy Spirit living within us, I think on that basis, we can make decisions just based on what we want to do and trust that the Lord will be in it, that he’ll steer and guide us appropriately.
William Carey once said, “I’m not afraid of failure; I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” What relevance does this have to hobbies and leisure activities?
I think if you are failing at church, but succeeding at a computer game, or the people in your church don’t know you but you’re a hero on Instagram, I’d say that’s a mark of real failure. So, what Willian Cary was looking for in that quote I think was really pushing us to, we need to succeed mostly in the most important things, that’s our most important pursuit. Those other things, it’s not that they don’t matter, it’s just that we have to give them appropriate attention, appropriate time, so I think for me that quote has been a big inspiration. I’ve kept a copy of it on my desk for years because I can succeed at things that don’t matter and often I feel myself drawn that way but that always comes at the expense of things that God has called me to more explicitly and as a matter of much higher priority. So, keep that quote in mind, I think it’s one that’s worth pondering again and again in life.