As men, what is the best way to evaluate how we spend our time? How do we decide how many football games to watch in a row, Sunday afternoon through Monday evening? When faced with choosing how to spend our time, asking the right questions can help us make the wisest choices.
When evaluating whether or not to watch another football game or movie, play a video game, or scroll through social media, we often ask, “Is there anything wrong with it?” In other words, is the activity sinful? If that is the only question we ask, however, we miss the opportunity to evaluate our larger pattern of long-term faithfulness and our stewardship of the days God gives us. Assessing the immediate morality of a particular action is wise, but it is a poor big picture barometer for how we spend our time. Just because something is lawful for us to engage in doesn’t mean it is the best choice.
A Higher Standard of Evaluation
The apostle Paul introduced a higher standard of evaluation to the Corinthians. He said, “All things are permitted, but not all things are of benefit. All things are permitted, but not all things build people up” (1 Corinthians 10:23 NASB). In other words, just because something is not sinful doesn’t mean it is wise to do.
Let’s look at computer gaming as an example. According to Pew Research, 77 percent of men aged 18–29 play video games, and one third of these men call themselves gamers. Studies show that gamers spend an average of seven to eight hours per week playing video games. While that doesn’t seem like a ton of time, seven hours a week translates into 364 hours annually and 3640 hours over one decade.
If you decide to spend your day gaming because there is nothing terrible in the game, you will miss considering the larger picture. While asking the question “Is it sinful?” is essential, it is a short-term evaluation that doesn’t evaluate your faithfulness over time.
Questions like, “What would be the most industrious use of my time?” help you evaluate the profitability of the activity. We need to compare spending that same amount of time with other potentially wiser choices that will net a more profitable long-term result. For example, studying for an exam for work or working on finishing the painting project you began two months ago will produce something that lasts. Get outside to exercise. Read a great book. Spend some time with friends. When you compare these options, it is easy to see which will enrich both you and others more.
The Hours Add Up
Instead of watching three football games every Sunday, what if you selected the best match-up to watch, then spent some time in Bible study with family or friends? What if you memorized Bible verses? A conservative estimate of the time it takes to memorize one verse and review over ten years is five hours total. Two hours allows you to get the verse down now, and the other three hours are spent over the decade in review. Just think of the hundreds of verses, even books of the Bible you could memorize in that same time. That sounds profitable, doesn’t it?
Not a computer gamer or football fan? How about social media? The average person spends 2 hours and 24 minutes on social media per day. Do the math. That’s more than twice the number of verses memorized. What about television and movies? A New York Post article reported the results of a recent OnePoll study that determined the average person will spend more than 78,000 hours in front of the television over their lifetime.
The next time you are faced with adding more hours to some of these pastimes, consider asking Paul’s question: “While this may be permitted for me to watch twelve hours of football this week, is it beneficial for me?”
This doesn’t mean us guys should never watch a movie, football game, or play a computer game. Watching a sporting event with friends or enjoying a modest diet of movie time can recharge the batteries and provide a context for biblical fellowship. The key is determining how much time to give to an activity to ensure it doesn’t steal valuable time from more profitable pursuits.
Spending Your Time Wisely
The secret to spending your time wisely is asking the right questions. Consider these:
- Is this the most profitable way to spend my day?
- Should I limit the time I spend on this today?
- Who can I call to help me evaluate this choice to ensure I’m making the wisest decision?
- Have I been faithful to finish other more important tasks first?
- Do I have any other responsibilities I am avoiding or neglecting?
- How much time have I been spending on this kind of activity over the past year? Does the bigger picture seem profitable?
- What will this activity net me in the end?
Questions like these will help you make wiser choices and avoid long-term regrets. Too many men face their later years with guilt wishing they had been more faithful with how they spent their time. You don’t have to be one of them.
Brave and Bold: 31 Devotions to Strengthen Men
What is the measure of a man? Is it athletic ability, strength, intelligence, or accomplishments? In Brave and Bold, Marty Machowski offers thirty-one daily devotions to encourage readers to become men whose strength comes from following Jesus and reflects him to a watching world.