You and Your "Free" Time

By Rev. A. Vergunst

Summer vacation has again arrived. Let us pay attention as families and individuals to the responsible use of our "free" time.

As result of the higher level of civilization and the ongoing mechanization of our life, we have acquired a greater amount of "free" time than previous generations. How sad, however, to observe that this hasn’t been to our spiritual benefit but rather to the indulging of our fleshly appetites. We tend to forget that Sodom’s sin wasn’t only the one concerning their immoral practices. God’s Word lists in Ezek. 16:49-50 the sins of Sodom: "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good." The ill use of their "free" time brought the downfall of Sodom. All too often this theme has been repeated throughout history. The story of Ahasuerus (Esther 1) and Belshazzar (Dan. 5) are clearly amplifying this theme. May God keep us from using our "free" time in ill and ungodly ways,

What is "free" time?

Simply defined, we could say that "free" time is that part of a person’s life not devoted to earning money or performing necessary duties (chores) or sleeping. When we count up such hours throughout our week, it will be amazing to find out how many hours we could call "free" time. Although such time is "free," yet we are not free to use this time as we please. Our accountableness to God in the use of this "free" time is essentially the same as that responsibility regarding the time we spend in secret prayer, private and public worship. We have become accustomed to divide our time in "sacred" and "secular." The sacred time is that time which we spend in reading or hearing God’s Word, prayer, and singing. The secular time is all the rest, work and play. Even though such a distinction is well intended and necessary, let us not forget that the Scripture defines all of our time sacred, as the apostle points out, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." The realization of this needs to be carried into every moment of our life, whether it is working or relaxing.

Amusement or Recreation?

The worldly definition to describe "free" time is exactly captured in the common word amusement. The Latin roots

forming this word are "a - musing" which means "not - thinking." How true is this definition! In the world of amusements man becomes "not-thinking" about the true value of life, about the nature of sin, about the All-Seeing God, and about the reality of eternity. Often the indulging into the pleasures of this world are to drown out the nagging emptiness or to escape the burdensome anxiety. In the end, however, the sorrowful, unsatisfied heart finds only more emptiness and heaviness (Prov. 14:13). Never should our activities be in this spirit of "not- thinking." That’s why the description "re-creation" is to he preferred. Re-creational use of "free" time may nevcr be personal gratification or physical and emotional exhaustion but ought to be refreshing and re-creating our energies to do our daily calling. It should function like as a "recess" functions within the schooldays. In order to make the students able to sit still, concentrate, and channel their God- given energy into learning, regular recess breaks are provided.

Work-outs

Today’s society is heavy on work-outs. Exercise equipment, gyms, and various aerobic classes are advertised all around us. It is undeniable that formerly there was far less need for physical recreation. Most labor was heavily mechanical. Farmers didn’t sit in air-conditioned tractors hut managed a team of horses. Young people walked or biked considerable distances to and from school. Driving a horse for a few hours is enough to make you want to sit down in a chair and read a book. However, today most of us sit behind desks, drive a car or bus and consequently have little natural usage of our physical energy. Besides, the fast pace and increased tension produce great mental exhaustion. With those things in mind, the need for a physical workout is more obvious. But also in this area we need to be cautious not to make our bodies an idol. Body-building isn’t the same as the re- creation of energy. Besides, the environment of the gym is far from promoting good thoughts. A good and steady walk in nature can be extremely calming, relaxing, invigorating, and even edifying if God opens our eyes to read about Him in His book of nature.

Guidelines

In conclusion I would like to suggest ten guidelines by which we should examine and regulate the nature of our activities. Often the question is asked, "What is permissibIe!" Hopefully these guidelines could be used to let the questioners answer their own question as well as giving guidance to us as parents when we take our families on vacation.

(1) Those activities for which we can sincerely thank God as His gift to us.

(2) Those activities of which you never need to question the lawfulness.

(3) Those activities which do not inhibit a prayerful spirit, communion with or peaceful thoughts about God.

(4) Those activities which will bring you in situations, company, or places in which you can uprightly ask God’s blessing and also expects God’s blessing.

(5) Those activities which involve only things which do not involve things that are holy or sinful.

(6) Those activities which do not occur on Sunday, which take immoderate lengths of time, or siphon off your energy to do your calling.

(7) Those activities which do not harm or bring into needless danger your neighbor or yourself.

(8) Those activities that do not promote evil thoughts and passions (like lust, pride, covetousness, anger, frustration, revenge).

(9) Those activities of which you deep down in your heart feel would not be bad if the Lord Jesus would find you doing them.

(10) Those activities which have the right ends, namely (1) to seek God’s glory, and (2) to revive the weary body or quicken the dull mind.