Leisure Time in the Home

by Roger Shouse

A STUDY OF THE USE OF leisure time in the home is much like the pendulum of a grandfather's clock. The pendulum swings from the extreme left to the extreme right. It just never seems to stay in the middle very long. There are homes in which Dad is a workaholic and never has any time for the children; and there are homes in which all they seem to do is play. They are forever going places, but don't have any time for the Lord's work. Thus, a study on this particular subject is truly needed.

It seems as if my own home life reflects the action of the above mentioned pendulum. As a preacher, I go out often in the evenings to visit other people. When I come home to tell the children a good night story, they ask, "Daddy, when are we going to get to play with you?" Then the pendulum swings the other direction. I play softball on Monday evening. My son plays Little League on Tuesday and Saturday, and I coach my daughter's team on Thursday and Saturday. After a week at the ball park, I feel the guilt of the pendulum not swinging the other direction.

My situation is not unique. Many people struggle with filled calenders of ball games, piano practice and a boss that wants them to put in more time at work. One writer described it:

"It is the age of the half-read page, the quick hash and the mad dash, the bright night with the nerves tight, the plane hop with the brief stop, the lamp tan in a short span, the brain strain and the heart pain, the catnaps until the spring snaps."

Gene Getz has observed, "Oftentimes we in the church teach people to devote more time to the family, then we fill up their schedules with church activities." It gets to be so much that folks just want to call a "time out" to figure out what is going on. Under- standing the proper use of leisure time in the home begins with the Bible. Solomon wisely wrote "There is a time for every event under heaven" (Ecc. 3:1). Somehow, our generation has erroneously concluded that to be a modern family we must make time for every event under heaven! This, however, is not quite what Solomon had in mind. Lets take a moment to discuss some common sense guide lines in using leisure time wisely.

1. The proper use of our leisure time at home begins with proper priorities. One's commitment to Christ and devotion to His word will keep his leisure activities in the right balance. Everyone needs a vacation now and then. Even McDonald's once told us that "you deserve a break today." But my getting away from the office, the phone, and the hectic schedule does not mean that I get away from my responsibilities as a Christian. Leisure time then is properly considered in light of the joys of being a Christian, such as worship, praying, studying, and making the most of opportunities for the kingdom. As a member of a local congregation, I must consider my obligations to my family in Christ. If a person is gone nearly every weekend it will be very had to fill their role in the local church. It is good to get away. Too much, though, produces other problems.

2. The proper use of leisure time requires a balance between family and self. Everyone needs to have their own hobbies and interests. Our Lord got away from the multitudes to the solitude of the mountain and prayer. As a married partner and as a parent one must balance leisure time between personal interests and those of others within the family. The man must take the lead in this. If you are a workaholic, remember that within a month of your death your company will have replaced you, but your wife and your children will miss you for as long as they live. Make some leisure time with your family. It does not have to cost anything. Spend time playing with the kids. Get down on the floor and let the wild Indians capture you. Sit at a table with a 3-year old and color Big Bird with him. This also means doing things that your wife enjoys. Get her out of the routine and do something fun together. Proper management of leisure time will show children that life is not all work. There is a time for fun and games. We remember that Jesus increased in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). Our Lord attended weddings. The apostle Paul was familiar with the sporting events such as boxing (1 Cor 9:26-27) and running ( 1 Cor 9:24). We need this side of life to make us smile again and to refresh ourselves. Some have forgotten that life is to be enjoyed. Under the direction of God it can be lived to the fullest.

3. The proper use of leisure time in the home demands a balance between work and play. The right balance here will reinforce in your children that life is not all fun and games. There is work to be done. Work at home. Work at work. Work at God's work. We read in Revelation that the faithful dead in Christ rest from their labors (14:13). Some won't need to rest because they have never labored. They have been too busy playing. We must all be busy at the work of Christ. Children should see their parents doing God's work, and be included in such activities as visiting shut-ins, hospitality, and making food for others.

Finding this proper balance is much easier to write about than to do. It doesn't come without making some effort and some sacrifices. It will demand occasionally turning off the TV and making up your own entertainment. The right balance also means saying the word "No." You can't be at every school function, coach every team, work every Saturday - and expect to have the right balance in life. You owe it to your family, yourself, and most of all to God to say "No."

The right balance is found in the family that works together and plays together, spends time with each other, and is committed to the work of God. If you have a hard time doing this, then schedule a time each week just for the family. And make an appointment for visiting the sick, or personal Bible study - and then keep the appointment like you would any other.

Too little, or too much - that is just the way life is. You have to work on it to get it just right. And so it is with our use of leisure time.

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