Key Scriptures: Daniel 3, Ephesians 4:22-24, 1 Timothy 5:13, Proverbs 19:15, Matthew 12:36, 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11, Ephesians 4:28-29, Romans 1:29-32, Matthew 5:28, Ezekiel 16:49, Proverbs 24:33-34, Proverbs 16:28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Mark 7:21-23, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Galatians 5:19-21, Titus 3:3, Proverbs 6:6-8, Psalm 39:5-6
Guiding Question: Does God care how we spend our leisure/free time?
Optional Introductory Activity: Have the class work together to come up with a comprehensive list of ways to spend free time….good, bad or indifferent. At this point, don’t analyze the suggestions. Keep the list where students can see the list and add other ideas, as this is a two part lesson.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Read Daniel 3. Kings like Nebuchednezzar often have a lot of free time to do as they please. They are surrounded by servants and others who not only try to meet, but anticipate the needs of the King. These same people often use flattery to impress the ruler. What was the result of the combination of free time and a large ego in Nebuchadnezzar? What did he expect the people to do with this statue he had built?
Nebuchadnezzar is perhaps even a little over the top for an ancient ruler. The statue he had built was about 29 meters or 60 feet tall and covered in gold. What’s more, when the people heard music, they were supposed to come out and bow down to it. Shadrach and his friends refused to bow down to what was essentially an idol. They made a choice of how to spend their free time…in this case worshipping an idol,when they heard music or worshipping God.
If we had written the story, it would have probably been different. They would never have had to go into the fiery furnace at all. Yet God let it happen. He protected them and saved their lives, but they still had to go through the experience. Even though they had made a godly choice about how to spend their time.
Life isn’t always fair because we live in a fallen world full of sinful people. God doesn’t always do things the way we expect Him to do them. Yet, God still calls us to obedience…making good choices…even in regards to how we spend our time. Yet in spite of everything, God used the good choices of Shadrach and his friends and even the fiery furnace to point Nebuchadnezzar and all who hear the story to God….even today, thousands of years after it happened.
The problem with our choices is that making good choices doesn’t always have an immediate positive outcome and making bad choices doesn’t always have an immediate negative outcome. Take exercising for example. If you have never exercised and then begin, that is a good choice. Eventually you will be healthier than you are today. In the meantime though, you may experience the pain that comes from exercising muscles for the first time in years.
Or you may know someone who lives enmeshed in sin, but it appears he or she has never experienced any of the negative consequences that often come with those choices. Just like with exercise though, negative choices sometimes have immediate consequences, but often those negative consequences are cumulative or aren’t obvious to anyone, but the person making those bad choices.
The older you get, the more responsibilities you will have. Ironically, one of those responsibilities is for choosing the things with which to occupy any free time you may have. Leisure time is tricky. We generally have more freedom and less structure during those times. We may have a few chores we need to do, but otherwise we can pick and choose what we want to do. With that increased freedom and reduced structure comes a plethora of options. Some of these options may be poor or even sinful.
What society thinks is a great way to spend free time may actually be something God believes is a negative way to spend your time. And what about rest? Is there anything wrong with just hanging out and doing nothing during our free time? Are there things God definitely doesn’t want us to do? Are there things He definitely wants us to do? How does God feel about spending time in ways that aren’t mentioned specifically by name in the Bible? These are important and complex questions and we will take two lessons to thoroughly examine how God wants us to spend our free time.
First, let’s see if we can figure out at least some of the things God doesn’t wanting us to do in our spare time. We can also look for any basic principles that may help us make better choices about things that aren’t specifically listed.
Read Ephesians 4:22-24. If there were a general principle, this is probably a key one. How does this passage describe a Christian? What implications can we make about the choices a Christian would make based on this passage? Christians are to get rid of their old selves and their deceitful desires. What is a deceitful desire? What does it mean to put off our old selves?
Let’s look at some specific ways people may choose to spend their leisure time. Some people try to find as much leisure time as they can in life. They avoid working any more than absolutely necessary. When they have free time, they enjoy being “couch potatoes”…..sleeping, resting and doing things that require little energy like watching movies or playing video games. While it’s not sinful to sleep, rest, watch a decent movie or play a fun video game per se, there can be an underlying attitude that God does not want us to have.
Read Proverbs 19:15, Proverbs 24:33-34, Proverbs 6:6-8 and 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11. What type of underlying attitude do some people who enjoy spending most of their time “doing nothing” have that God finds problematic? What does a sluggard or idleness look like today – especially for someone your age? When does it cross the line from resting to be healthy to idleness?
Ironically, God also has a warning for people who want to spend all of their time working so they can get more and more money. We have studied how God wants us to interact with money in previous lessons, but read Psalm 39:5-6. What does God have to say about spending all of our leisure time in pursuit of money?
Of course, there are lists of sinful behaviors God wants us to avoid sprinkled throughout the Bible. While these scriptures don’t cover every possible sin, read these verses and create a list of other ways God does not want us to spend our time. 1 Timothy 5:13, Ephesians 4:28-29, Romans 1:29-32, Matthew 5:28, Proverbs 16:28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Mark 7:21-23, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Galatians 5:19-21.
Before we finish this section, there are a few more ways to spend leisure time we need to discuss. The first is about the things we say in our free time. When we are having fun with our friends, our language tends to be more casual. Our grammar may not be as good as it is when we speak at school to a teacher. We may use special slang terms. There is nothing inherently wrong with poor grammar or even some slang terms. God does want us to think carefully about our speech though.
The verses we read have already mentioned lying, gossip, slander, curses and some other things God doesn’t want in our speech. Read Matthew 12:36. What are some careless words we regularly speak in our free time, that God may ask us to answer for on the Judgment Day? Can you find other scriptures to back up your ideas?
One of the ways we often spend our free time is thinking. It seems safe, because unless we say or write the things we think about down, they aren’t real, right? Actually, the verse we read in Matthew points out that if we spend time dwelling on lustful thoughts about a woman (or man) it is as if we had actually gone out an had an affair with her (or him). Read Titus 3:3. What other attitudes and types of thoughts does this verse say God wants us to avoid? Can you think of other examples? Can you find verses to back up your ideas?
We will talk about this more in the next lesson, but read Ezekiel 16:49. What is upsetting to God in this passage? The people had everything they needed to help the poor and needy. The Bible doesn’t mention time specifically, but we can assume they also had the opportunity/time to help these people. Yet they chose not to do so. They were prideful and selfish and wanted to keep their things and their time for themselves instead of helping others with it.
We’ve covered a lot of ways God doesn’t want us to spend our free time in this lesson. Can you think of anything we haven’t discussed? Is there a way to spend free time that you think may not be the best use of your time, but still aren’t sure how God may feel about it? What is it? (Note: If students are struggling with something that is not sinful, but perhaps not the best use of their time, have them consider verses like 1 Corinthians 10:23.)
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Have students make a personal list of the different ways they spend their free time. Have them circle any they believe they should eliminate as well as those they believe they should perhaps spend less time doing.
Quite often we develop bad habits in our leisure time pursuits. It is easy to get in the habit of sitting down and picking up a device when we have time to spare…using all of that time playing games or scrolling through social media. While some of that may be okay, much of it is designed to be addictive. Someone may want to spend thirty minutes playing games, but looks up and four hours have passed.
The rest of the lesson should be a discussion of how to eliminate bad habits or but strict boundaries on leisure time pursuits we want to reduce. Consider dividing students into groups that are struggling with similar issues. Or work together as a class to come up with strategies that can help each individual with their particular habit.
Some may claim all of their free time is spent productively or that they have no free time. While it may feel that way, many have simply become unaware of their free time and how it is being spent. Encourage students to keep a time log for a week or two. Have them analyze how they spend their time. Was there more free time than they realized? How were they spending it? Make sure they include little things like ten minutes waiting for the bus, where they are able to think or engage in some sort of activity while they wait.
Application Challenge: Review the scriptures from the lesson. Keep a time log for the next week. Record how you spend every minute (blocks of time are okay if the entire time was spent in one activity). How are you spending your time? Where do you see a need for improvement?