Now that so many of us are working from home, the line between “work-work” and “home-work” is getting blurred. We find ourselves spending our days doing several domestic tasks amid our other responsibilities for our jobs. Work-at-home moms and dads are busy writing reports, responding to emails, and taking conference calls while making PB&J sandwiches, repairing the broken doorknobs, and fixing leaky taps. When does the workday end? Is there time for leisure and recreation? Unless you are a regular stay-at-home parent or homeschooling mom, this is all new territory.
In Brother Lawrence’s book, The Practice of the Presence of God, the 17th-century monk encourages us both to glorify God and know his presence while doing the most menial of tasks like mopping the floor or peeling potatoes!
Medieval monks spent a lot of their time labouring and serving, often at lowly and humble chores. Based on the monks’ talents and aptitudes, they were assigned jobs like washing, food preparation, cleaning, farming, scribing, carpentry, masonry, tending to the sick, etc. We can learn from our medieval brothers how to manage our responsibilities and how to glorify God in the small tasks of day-to-day living. In Brother Lawrence’s book, The Practice of the Presence of God, the 17th-century monk encourages us both to glorify God and know his presence while doing the most menial of tasks like mopping the floor or peeling potatoes!
One of the ways monks made the most of their time was augmenting their daily chores with the honing and development of other valuable skills. Since the collapse of Roman civilization, monks preserved and mastered expertise in a variety of areas. For example, monks practiced reading and writing, singing, book-binding, brewing beers, wine-making, medicine and herbology, gardening, engineering, carpentry, teaching, and a host of other activities. Although many monastic orders left little time for leisure, some of the jobs assigned to monks might be considered hobbies by today’s standards.
So what do hobbies have to do with the Christian faith? Recently during an online Q&A session for 2020 Together For the Gospel conference, Al Mohler spoke about needing a “theology of leisure” and how Christians can “glorify God with our hobbies.” Mohler’s statements may have shocked some Christians, especially dyed-in-the-wool evangelicals. How can hobbies advance the Kingdom of God? Why waste time on hobbies when we should be evangelizing? We need to be careful about how we “redeem the time” God has given to us (Ephesians 5:16). The Bible reminds us often how fleeting our lives are (see, for example, Psalm 90:12; 144:4; James 4:13-17; 1 Peter 1:24). But evangelism is not our primary function as Christians: glorifying God is. The classic catechism question—what is the chief end of man—is answered with “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Part of glorifying God—making his greatness known—is telling others about Jesus and the Good News. During this time of COVID-19 lockdown, there are new and exciting ways to share the gospel and evangelize (see, for example, the TGC article “10 Simple Ways to Evangelize During a Pandemic”) We also have more time with family, which means more opportunities to disciple your kids in Christ and lead your family in home worship.
But we also have more time for hobbies.
Activities like gardening, photography, poetry, playing an instrument, learning a second language, sewing, wood-working, painting, drawing, blogging, composing, and cooking (just to name a few). How can our hobbies glorify God?
To help answer that question, I turn to young David on the run from King Saul. I have often wondered what David did in the Cave of Adullam or in the wilderness. What did he do with the extra time he had while in forced “isolation” and “social distancing” as King Saul relentlessly hunted him? One thing is for sure: he wrote poems. We wouldn’t usually call the psalms of David a product of mere “hobby,” but that is what they were. The lyrics that appear in the Book of Psalms are uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit, but the skill of writing poems is perhaps talent that David honed while passing the time as a shepherd to his father’s sheep. Like playing the harp, poetry was one of the ways David used his gifts. Often the Lord uses our gifts and abilities not only for our enjoyment but also as a means to bless and minister to others. For example, the guitar or piano hobbyist ends up accompanying worship music; the poet hobbyist becomes a hymn writer; the hobby baker ends up blessing others with hospitality; the dabbler in languages becomes a missionary or translator… These sorts of applications aren’t needed to justify hobbies, but who knows what the Lord will do with the gifts, talents, and skills honed while practicing a hobby?
Devaluing seemingly “unspiritual work” often leads us to the wrong idea that there is a separation between “church life” and “everyday life.” In truth, there’s just life. We live every moment “coram Deo,” that is, before the face of God.
Even in more focused ways, the Lord using our hobbies to teach us to be patient, or more loving, or humble, or sacrificial. He may use our hobbies to draw us closer to him, as Brother Lawrence writes: “God has many ways of drawing us to Himself.”
Perhaps most importantly, using our gifts and abilities well glorifies the One who made you. You are not a cosmic fluke, but a carefully designed person made in the image of God. God created you with unique and individual gifts and abilities. He did not bless you with artistic skills, for example, to not use or hone that skill! Working at your hobbies is really about stewarding the gifts—and now time—that God has given to you.
The point is, don't underestimate hobbies. It’s an unbiblical view that “God’s business” is limited to evangelism, Sunday school, and sermons. As essential as these activities are, our God is much bigger than that. Devaluing seemingly “unspiritual work” often leads us to the wrong idea that there is a separation between “church life” and “everyday life.” In truth, there’s just life. We live every moment “coram Deo,” that is, before the face of God.
I recently heard this quotation from Charles Simeon, who writes that “there are but two lessons for Christians to learn: the one is, to enjoy God in everything; the other is, to enjoy everything in God.” Take some time, fellows monks, and develop an enjoyable skill and talent that has been collecting dust on the shelves of your minds and hearts. Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.
 The Shorter Catechism: A Baptist Version (New Jersey: Simpson Publishing, 1991), 1.
 Paul Worcester writes, “The gospel can’t be quarantined”—see article link here.
 See my previous blog post, “The Art of Worship at Home” (link here)
 Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004), 57
Jeremy W. Johnston
Christian, husband, father, teacher, writer.