Work or Play?

We spend hours at work being productive, and we spend hours (perhaps not so many) “playing”. Which activity is higher on our priority list?

Robert Banks asks the question, “From a Christian point of view, do we work primarily to have leisure or have leisure primarily to refresh ourselves for work?”1

That’ll make you stop to think! Some folks are blessed to work at what they love, which blurs the lines a little. This question, then, is aimed at the rest of us whose work and play times are completely unrelated.


When we work, what are we working for?

  • Money to pay bills?
  • A raise?
  • A promotion?
  • Pride in our accomplishments and a job well-done?
  • Acclamation?
  • Money to play with on our time off (vacation, weekends, etc.)?
  • Savings for retirement?

What is your primary aim in going to work? How are your work goals informed and shaped by God’s Word?

Paul has a few things to say about work in his letters to Christ followers.

“Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living” (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 NLT).

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others” (2 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

Paul’s instructions encouraged believers to work in order to provide for themselves so they would not be a burden to others, and to be respectable in their community.

I’m sure you’ve heard this passage from Proverbs before:

“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.

But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber” (Proverbs 6:6-11).

Working hard is the responsible thing to do. It provides for our needs now, and hopefully for the future.

On that note, the Bible also speaks to our plans for the future.

Jesus said, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Financial wisdom cannot be thrown out the window, but focusing too much on the amount of money we have in our bank accounts can be a slippery slide down into idolizing our wealth over trusting in God. Saving to meet our needs is a far cry from working hard to accumulate great amounts of wealth.

“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16).

Yes, make your plans wisely, but submit them to God’s will and trust Him with the outcome!


What is the aim of our free time?

I’m using “play” to include any time and activity not related to our work.

  • How do we spend our free time?
  • Is it really free, or have we placed too many demands on it to truly call it “free time”?
  • How much of our free time is really taken by societal pressures to be “amazing” at this or that so we can get noticed and make a name for ourselves? Take community sports or gardening clubs, for example.
  • Do we play as hard as we work, staying crazy busy from sunup to sundown?
  • Is our free time used with ourselves as the main recipient, or do we spend some of it on behalf of others?
  • Is there any rest to be found in the time between leaving work and arriving back at work for our next shift (besides sleep, of course!)? I encourage you to read my last post, Too Busy!, where I write about the importance of making time to be still.

Jesus understood the importance of down time. “Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31). Things didn’t go as planned, but perhaps they got a little rest along the way!

He also gave this promise: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The promise hinges on us! Will we make time to spend with Jesus so that we can find deep soul rest? His easy yoke will lead us in wisdom as we travel our journey of faith and learn to balance our lives between work and play. We may even learn to blur the lines between the two, bringing our soul rest into our work space!

I know I’ve asked a ton of questions in this post, trying to nudge us all into being more aware of how we spend our time as well as looking at the motivations of the why behind the how.

Remember, we have a Good Shepherd who provides all we need, including the ability to work and earn a living! At the same time, we are not the captains of our own ships. We have a God who calls us to rest in His presence and to consider that all we have ultimately comes from Him.

Now it’s your turn!

Which question grabbed your attention the most? What will you do with your answer? Share your insights in the comments below, and help us all along our journey!

1 Robert Banks, Redeeming the Routines: Bringing Theology to Life (Victor Books, Wheaton, IL: 1946), 85.

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