Can You Make Leisure Time Rewarding?
LEISURE time! When you hear these words, you may think of rest, or of getting something done that you have been putting off. Or you may have ideas as to how you can spend the time in a way that you find entertaining and amusing. But, even though the thought may present a rather glowing prospect, leisure time can result in a detrimental outcome.
Why is this? Because, as the Bible explains, “the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” (Gen. 8:21) If a person does not guide himself within the bounds of good principle, he can tear himself down during his leisure time. This does not mean he should not fully enjoy his free time. He should. But he should not afterward have a feeling of disgust or regret over time wasted or wrongly spent.
Persons who consult the Bible on matters of life are protected by keeping in mind the apostle Paul’s words: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Cor. 10:31) He also wrote: “Let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.” (Rom. 14:19) These scriptures provide fine standards by which to judge the value of the way a person spends his time. It does not require that he be narrow-minded or fanatical, unable to take time to talk about any subject aside from the Bible. Nor does it preclude enjoyment of the things God has provided, within the bounds that he has set. (1 Tim. 4:4) God made man with the ability to enjoy the delights of good association. Man also has the capacity to enjoy beauty and the arts and the multitudinous features of this amazing earth, which God gave man as his home. God’s own Son did not condemn the enjoyment of things that give one pleasure. At a wedding feast in Galilee, you may recall, he worked a miracle that provided a fresh supply of the best of wine, which, the Bible says, “makes the heart of mortal man rejoice.”—Ps. 104:15; John 2:3-11.
THE NEED FOR A CHANGE
Most persons today have a day or two a week free from secular work. There are also the evenings. Those who fill up all their evenings “moonlighting,” that is, working at a second job, are missing an important part of their lives. And, if they have families, they are depriving them of a much-needed feature of family life. If circumstances make it possible, it is much better to have free time for things that are upbuilding than it is to possess much in a material way.
Relaxation that is most profitable is not so much a doing of nothing or of having pure “fun.” It is a change of pace or occupation, particularly a change that builds up a person in a phase of his life that usually gets less time and attention. Every individual needs balance, and leisure time ought to be employed toward achieving a balanced life and personality.
APPLYING A PROVERB
In ancient Israel the people were farmers, for the most part; some had businesses or trades. The proverbs of King Solomon constituted counsel for Israel in every area of life. They were actually God’s inspired counsel for the people. One of these proverbs states: “Prepare your work out of doors, and make it ready for yourself in the field. Afterward you must also build up your household.” (Prov. 24:27) This proverb shows that it is a man’s responsibility, first to do his work, which will provide necessities and security for the family, then to give attention to the household itself.
So in Israel long hours were spent daily in the fields, except on the sabbath day. This rest day was generally used in discussing and teaching God’s law. The father also used time for other purposes. This included journeys to Jerusalem for the festivals, time spent in vintage and harvest festivities, weddings and other activities, all of which were educational as well as recreational.
The inspired proverbs, since they deal with human nature, which does not change, can be applied in principle to modern society. It is true that more stress and strain are on everyone, but people generally have more leisure time. The pace and tenseness of our day will be far less oppressive and life much more refreshing and enjoyable if the time other than that spent in the “field,” whether it be the farm or factory, or the business world, is spent in ‘building up one’s household.’
A primary requirement is to have a genuine interest in the welfare of the children and in their upbuilding, so that the children can face and handle life’s problems. Accordingly, time free from work can be spent, first, in family discussion, covering matters of all kinds. Then problems, when they arise, will be more freely brought out into the open where they can be aired out and solved or corrected.
The father can establish the proper relationship by having his son with him when he uses time off from secular work to do repairs around the house, or to work on the family car, or the lawn mower. Let the boy actually participate in the work; he learns to be a real man in this way. Likewise, the mother can arrange things so that her daughter shares with her in things that need to be done in the home. By this training the daughter grows into real womanhood.
A MODERN EXAMPLE
Those who accept the Bible as God’s Word and who try to follow its direction have the clearest, most direct way of helping their children with full assurance that they are doing the right things. At the same time they are using their leisure time in the most enjoyable, satisfying way. How is this? As a helpful illustration let us look briefly at the example found among Jehovah’s witnesses. They are people who have found themselves facing the same problems that everyone encounters in this fast-moving age. But as one observes them one finds that they do not feel these things overly burdensome. Most of them refuse to be so concerned with making money as to sacrifice all their leisure time. They see that such time is set aside.
The reason is that these people have turned to the Bible to investigate the hope it holds forth. From its study they are convinced that the Creator, who really owns all mankind, has a marvelous purpose to bring relief and life by his Messianic kingdom. They feel that they therefore owe him complete devotion—that actually all their time should be spent in some beneficial way within the bounds of his arrangements.
These Christians draw from the Bible the view that service of God to a large extent involves communication with others. This is indeed the most pleasurable occupation that God has provided for mankind. When good things are communicated, it is an unparalleled pleasure, and the enjoyment of it endures after the discussion is ended, because it is upbuilding.
Jehovah’s witnesses normally arrange their leisure time so that a good share of it is occupied with the ministry of the Word. This means that they take their time free from work, often Saturday afternoons and Sundays, to engage in speaking to others about the Bible, its principles, and the hope for mankind presented by the kingdom of God. They do not confine this to their friends and families, but speak to people in their neighborhood, calling at their homes. They take their children along. Bible studies are conducted in the homes of interested persons, often in other free hours, such as evenings.
It is an interesting and outstanding fact that, in interviewing many of them, not one of these persons has ever been heard to say, after spending a few hours engaging in this occupation, that he felt that he had wasted his time, even though it may have occupied all his leisure hours for that day. And thousands of persons with whom Jehovah’s witnesses have spent time discussing or studying the Bible in this manner feel the same way, though it has cost them an hour of their free time each week.—Matt. 11:29, 30.
But Bible study, discussion and attending congregational meetings do not occupy all the free time of Jehovah’s witnesses. There are periods of leisure that are used for complete relaxation, and much of this is found in association with family and friends. Varied are the ways in which they do this. It may be eating a meal together. It may be a picnic or outing, or traveling to some nearby place of interest or recreation. There is an interchange of thoughts, feelings, ideas and experiences that relieves the pressure of everyday living and encourages and upbuilds.—Rom. 1:11, 12.
WHAT MAY BE DONE?
All persons need some time for relaxation in a form that they really enjoy, and one cannot be the judge of another as to what form of relaxation he selects, as long as it does not violate right principles. One may engage in a hobby, such as woodworking, radio building, painting, raising flowers, photography, sewing, needlework, learning another language, and so forth. Another may spend some time listening to good music, reading, watching television, walking through the woods, window-shopping, or any number of things. Just rest or sleep alone may at times be the best thing.
What one may enjoy may seem a waste of time to another. Nevertheless, if he finds it relaxing and helpful to him, and if he does not overdo it, but observes moderation and maintains a balance, he should not be condemned.
The apostle Paul discusses certain matters, such as the eating or not eating of certain foods, and the observance of a certain day as a rest day or as an ordinary day. Then he says to those who were judging according to their personal ideas or opinions: “Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you also look down on your brother? . . . each of us will render an account for himself to God. Therefore let us not be judging one another any longer, but rather make this your decision, not to put before a brother a stumbling block or a cause for tripping.” If a person thinks a thing is wrong for himself, it would be wrong for him, as Paul further points out: “Only where a man considers something to be defiled, to him it is defiled.”—Rom. 14:10-14.
Conversely, as the apostle goes on to say, we should not insist on our “right” to do something that we personally enjoy if it is a cause of upset or stumbling for others. We cannot rightly use the excuse that it is “our own business,” if it is something that is not really essential. Paul counsels: “It is well not to eat flesh or to drink wine or do anything over which your brother stumbles.”—Rom. 14:21.
Everyone would do well to ask himself, Do I give enough thought to the way my free time is used? Is it wasted? or does it serve some beneficial purpose? If I employ an evening in some form of recreation or entertainment, is moderation observed? or am I up so late that I am drowsy and inefficient the next day? Or, if the evening happens to be Saturday or some evening preceding a day free from work, do I stay up watching a late movie, or a late television show, or doing something else so that I have to sleep well into the next morning, thereby losing some of the best part of the day? If the answer is Yes, and especially if this occurs frequently, it is unbalanced use of time and a change should be made. If the activity engaged in was such that it left one feeling empty, unrewarded, and somewhat guilty because of wasting time, it would be an indication that some revision of one’s recreational activities was in order.
WHEN A GROUP GATHERS
When a family, or two or three families get together, there is a great variety of things that can be done. It is good if the children and older ones can be included in the conversation or the activity. For those who love the Bible, probably the most upbuilding and enjoyable thing of all is to read the Bible, each in turn reading a few verses, then asking questions and commenting on the material. Readers of this magazine or its companion Awake! or other Watch Tower publications, may enjoy reading and discussing material from these in a similar manner.
Some like to play games. If games of any sort are played, based on the Bible or otherwise, it is better to minimize the spirit of competition. This avoids making one or two of the group prominent while others feel embarrassed or inferior. To this end, games can be selected that do not put any individual “on the spot.” Let persons be free to volunteer an expression or to remain silent. Questions asked can be directed to the group rather than to any individual. Whoever wants to speak up may do so; yet all can hear and learn.
An important thing to remember in all cases is that our enjoyment of a thing should not infringe on the time of others, time they would like to use for something else. All should use good judgment as to the length and frequency of visits. The proverbs again wisely counsel: “Make your foot rare at the house of your fellow man, that he may not have his sufficiency of you and certainly hate you.”—Prov. 25:17.
CRITICAL TIMES CALL FOR CAUTION
The Bible foretold “critical times hard to deal with,” as one of the signs of the “last days” of this rapidly deteriorating system of things. (2 Tim. 3:1) We see an upsurge in crime and immorality, along with pornography in movies and in print. It becomes increasingly dangerous to be present where crowds assemble for movies, sports events and other worldly forms of entertainment. Only recently a bomb was discovered in one of New York city’s largest theaters. Robberies, muggings and even riots are a menace to those attending such gatherings.
Even though this condition exists, the young person who has experienced only the way of life carried on in these critical times may find some of its “way out” entertainments appealing. He may want to have his “fling,” with thoughts of pursuing a more serious, settled life later. Anyone having such ideas should soberly weigh his attitude against the words of the inspired writer of Ecclesiastes, who counseled: “Rejoice, young man, in your youth, and let your heart do you good in the days of your young manhood, and walk in the ways of your heart and in the things seen by your eyes. But know that on account of all these the true God will bring you into judgment.”—Eccl. 11:9.
Youth has a natural zeal for enjoyment. The heart leans that way. God, of course, wants not only youth, but all, to enjoy life. But God especially warns youth that restraint must be exercised. (2 Tim. 2:22) If there is unbridled pleasure and things done are not good, the person will have to account for his acts to God. In view of this, the writer of Ecclesiastes continues:
“So remove vexation from your heart, and ward off calamity from your flesh; for youth and the prime of life are vanity.” Youth is transitory; it does not last long. So during this time avoid abuses that will bring debauchery, calamity and God’s disfavor. Select proper relaxation and enjoyment now.—Eccl. 11:10.
As the available selection of good movies, television programs and other forms of entertainment becomes more and more narrow, both old and young should be increasingly careful. Paradoxically, this situation works toward good for the Christian. It tends to turn his mind more exclusively toward the basic things that bring satisfaction and reward. Yes, it impels him to “do all things for God’s glory,” at the same time building up and making for peace.