Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What to do with our Luxury Time?

Let’s just pretend that you had the opportunity to have a great deal of free time for the rest of your life. Let’s say that you paid off your house or ran a business that did not take up all your time, and, therefore, you had time during the day that could be used according to your discretion. This is the plight of the retired or the well off financially. Let’s say that your free time can be any time during the day. For example, let’s say that you could be free from noon to 4:00pm every day. Maybe, your free time would be from 8:00pm to midnight. The point is that you have a significant portion of every day in which you have no absolute obligations to either make money or to the family. The question is “what would you or I do with the time?”

Daily Luxury Time!!!
The daily cycle.

In our daily cycle, we have some discretionary time. We may think we do not have any free time at all. But this is not true. We all have free time. Creating free time during the day is vital to a healthy daily cycle. The question is what do we do with our discretionary time. Do we relax? Do we tend to the garden? Do we read? Do we pray?

Some of us have more than others. If you are reading this blog, you have discretionary time, and you are using it quite wisely I might add. If you are retired or work for yourself, you probably have more discretionary time than most. So what are we to do with this time. I have been thinking about this a great deal lately.

So let’s take a little stroll down fantasy lane and consider, what would we do if we have four hours a day of luxury time?

First what do most people (worldly) people do with such luxury time?
Do Nothing
Most people either completely waste this time by relaxing. Most relatively wealthy people simple work a shorter day and slow down the pace of life. They take longer meals, get ready for work a little slower, come home a little earlier, stop at an acquaintances on the way home, take longer to prepare the dinner meal, etc.
Most people couple this more relaxed pace with exercise. Exercise is the luxury of the rich. Looking good is the luxury of people with too much time on their hands. Many people take up a sport like golf or tennis. Today, people with luxury time often “work out” or go to the gym. Some people, knowing that extended aerobic exercise is the key to long life take up running. This is my personal tendency. I love to run long distances. Running is truly one of my joys in life though for the last fifteen years I have only been able to run like once a month.
Fiction Reading
These first two options in my mind are almost always pure hedonism. Admittedly exercise is a somewhat virtuous means to a virtuous end of living longer but a great deal of the motive is to look good and feel good which is total worldly motivated status driven hedonism. So in an attempt to better oneself and appear at least somewhat seeking something valuable people often pass the time by reading fiction. The rich join book clubs. We sit together and appreciate good art. Even as I write this I start to get nauseous. Somehow the ability to appreciate culture is seen as virtuous. This option feeds only our aristocratic pride. I can almost understand the motives of the Cultural Revolution. If I didn’t do my resentments inventory on a regular basis, I imagine I would be a mass murdering leftist revolutionary.

Next we get to options that I personally would consider.
Becoming an Intellectual and a Writer
I have on my self many very interesting books that I have not had the time to read. I have cracked the cover of many Daniel Boorstein books. I read Dave McCullough to my children. Here is the strange problem with becoming an intellectual (assuming one has the gifting). It is so much easier to be a pundit and commentator of history and the changing world than to be an actual doer. The world has too many books as it is. This is my conviction. One more great book is not going to solve the problems we face. It is helpful to write a book that chronicles one’s work in life. I appreciate “Organic Church” or Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Church” because these books are written after the work was done and are summaries of lessons learned so far in ministry. I can see writing a book like this but not until I and our church has learned how to expand the kingdom in our sphere. Then we can write a book that memorializes the lessons we have learned. But to write pure theory without practice, this is pure punditry and the world has far too many armchair quarterbacks. Whoa to any of us who say we know but do not do. So though I would love to write books, writing about the kingdom without doing the kingdom is of little value and holds little authentic wisdom.

Becoming a Student of Music
I love music. I cannot listen to music and talk at the same time. I am completely carried away by music when I hear it. In fact, I cannot do much of anything at all in life because I am so carried away by music that is only in my head most of my waking life. If I am not lost in thought; I am lost in music. Now, I can justify becoming a student of music and learning to play music with more excellence as a mean to mission. I love to party and play music at parties. I think music is a good means to inspire. Music is a good form of preaching and teaching. If we are both musicians and poets, then we can lead people to good works through music. Music is a step closer to doing than purely being an intellectual because music is played in the world. So having a good band and writing music is pretty close to a valid use of one’s luxury time. I would love to and I very well might become a student of the guitar. I am not a good solo note guitar player. Becoming a good solo note guitar player and using this to write music and preach through music and becoming more involved in evangelism and open air preaching through music is a pretty virtuous use of my luxury time. But only if the mission is actually being accomplished in the music. If the music doesn’t go out to the world, then the whole exercise is pretty self serving. So working on the sound of the band is a good option.

Becoming a Student of Jesus using Western Methods
By this I mean making it my life work to know and teach the words of Jesus. Let’s again imagine we have four hours a day of free time and we use this time studying the words of Jesus and teaching them to others. Would it not be a great work of devotion to spend one’s life being immersed in the words of our Lord. Ought I spend my life in contemplation of the cross and the words of the crucified savior. As John Piper is a student of the reformed approach to the bible and is a champion of a God-glorifying God-centered worldview, my passion is the teachings of Jesus. Would it not be an act of devotion to be the John Piper of the person and work of the Crucified Savior. Think if every person in the church spent the majority of their luxury time as a student of the words of Jesus and equipping themselves to teach others the way of the Messiah. It would but for one problem. Our emphasis in how we learn needs to be not through contemplation first but doing first and contemplation second. Here is the western problem. We teach the theory first and call this knowledge. Instead we should learn through a cycle of instruction in doing, practice of the principle and then contemplation and reflection. Which leads me to the highest use of one’s luxury time.

I know some people who would spend this time in contemplation of God. It is said of A.W. Tozer that he spent six days in heaven and one day telling us how it was. Surely, the knowledge of God is foundational to doing any actual spiritual good if like Piper says “God is the Gospel”. Is it possible to do any spiritual good if we do not know God intimately? Certainly at least a part of any time we have at our discretion needs to be spent in devotion to God and contemplation of His person and work.

Community – Being the Church
Lately in our faith community, the topic has been in what ways does living as community require death to self. In many ways, living in intentional relationships is an option which we take as opposed to just relaxing. We say I could just hang out at home or I could bring the family over to the Jones’. We take these intentional steps because by cutivating community with the Jones’, we create an environment where the seeker can see the kingdom and become part of the church in his daily routine. This simple act of making community is a positive and necessary part of our daily lives. The early church took meals together daily. It is not possible to make disciples unless we create such community. Our leisure time needs to be turned over to this purpose as well.

Becoming a Student of Jesus by Following Jesus into Good Works
So now we come to the last and I believe the highest use of our luxury time. We all have luxury time. The question is “how can we best use our luxury time?” I often leave the house at 8:00pm at night to spend time with like minded followers of Jesus. It is also possible that in the future I will have more luxury time. We all have weekends. What do we do with our weekends to make them productive? Do we tend to our lawn? Do we read books? Do we watch sports? Do we vacation with the family at the local park? Do we play sports? Do we study the bible? Or do we take up our cross daily and follow Jesus? As I consider the possibility of having luxury time, true repentance is to give this time over to doing good works by meeting the needs of others. This practice of compassion and charity is the ethic of Christianity that all our faith is working toward. The journey into the life of Christ is to think very immediately and consider what is my greatest ambition? This ambition comes out in how we use our free time. As I consider all the things I would like to do I land on what so obviously is neglected.

Jesus went about doing good. Do I know those around me who have needs. When we lose our religion and embrace just following Jesus, we have no obligations but to love. Here we are now truly free and our free time is spent not in attaining any position in the organization or community but in doing good.


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