How do you waste your time? For me, I frequently give into the temptation to nestle into my beanbag after a long day to read a book, listen to music or watch familiar Disney films. Others might churn through a Netflix series, take a nap or get stuck in an endless loop of online shopping.
We all need a break now and again; however, often these moments aren’t worth the nuggets of guilt we feel afterwards. Could we have spent that time studying? Helping around the house? Sleeping, pursuing opportunities, completing all those tasks we never seem to have enough time for? After recharging through our so-called ‘guilty pleasures’, we often feel shame that we could—or should—have spent the time better. As a result, we count the time as ‘wasted’.
In itself, the word ‘waste’ has some strong negative connotations—hardly helped by its meaning to describe rubbish. When used as a verb, Lexico defines ‘waste’ as ‘use or expend carelessly, extravagantly or to no purpose’. Wasting time is foolish. Wasting our potential is to be pitied.
Recently at church, a particular phrase which a speaker used stood out, he challenged us to ‘waste our time on Jesus’.
We have so much on our plates on any given day that stepping away from our responsibilities—whether for fifteen minutes or an hour—to spend time with God feels like as much of an indulgence as clicking on another BuzzFeed quiz. We are devoting time to our own spiritual life while the rest of the world keeps ticking along. Sometimes, it might feel as though we get nothing out of those quiet moments, which can be discouraging and even make it feel like another task to tick off.
But spending time with God isn’t something we should be approaching for ourselves. In contrast, time spent with him is a form of worship, of gifting our time towards him rather than towards the world.
The Opportunity to Stop Striving
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that there isn’t enough time to find room for Jesus in each day—set your own rhythm in the world. Yes, we need to be disciplined and find the hours to study or finish that essay (unfortunately, no amount of prayer will make it write itself). The dishwasher needs to be stacked and the dog must be walked. But beyond our responsibilities, using time wisely is all about what we prioritise.
In Luke 12:34, we are told, ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’. You naturally make time for the things that are important to you—whether that is hanging out with your family, doing craft or playing games. It’s okay to value something that others might consider frivolous—if working through the Netflix catalogue truly brings you refreshment and joy, you don’t have to feel guilty about making the time for it.
The difference for Christians is that we are called to put Jesus into our number one slot and, as a result, prioritise time with him—whether that happens naturally, or you deliberately schedule it in.
Think about the time you spend with family, friends or housemates. If your family is like mine, there are probably many nights when you know you have work to finish, applications to complete, chores to do, but it’s so easy to linger at the dinner table or keep watching TV together. You might not have any tangible results to show for what you achieved in that time together, because the purpose is spending time in relationship with the people you love.
Our world increasingly tricks us into a pattern of constant striving, in every situation. But when I’m hanging out with my family, I’m stepping out of my to-do list to be with them, laugh together, comment mindlessly on whatever is on TV. That’s relationship, and Jesus wants to be in relationship with us.
Prioritising time with Jesus is crucial to a close relationship with him. Besides, if we take time to pray, sit with the Holy Spirit or even listen to the wealth of Christian podcasts and sermons available online, is that time really wasted? Or is it refreshing beyond our own understanding?
Think back to those dictionary definitions. Is ‘wasting time on Jesus’ careless? No, it’s intentional. Does ‘wasting time on Jesus’ have no purpose? Absolutely not. Is ‘wasting time on Jesus’ extravagant? Yes—in the best way, towards him.
Perhaps ‘wasting time on Jesus’ requires us to reframe our ‘wasted time’ as pockets of opportunity. After all, supposed wasted land could also be thought of as a site for future building and growth. Wasted items can be recycled or reimagined. A person who feels as though they have wasted their life so far is at the turning point of embarking on a new journey. ‘Wasting time on Jesus’, where we step out of the day to day—even though it feels like we have far too much else going on—is a chance for us to get closer to him, grow in relationship and become more like him in the process.
Five Ways to Start ‘Wasting Time on God’
1. Music: Whether you’re listening in your bedroom, singing heartily in your car or playing your own instrument, there is a reason why music is typically the main component of church worship services.
2. Prayer: Find a groove of prayer that works for you, whether it involves speaking out loud, writing on paper or sitting in silence.
3. Bible time: If you’re not sure where to begin, the Psalms are a great starting point.
4. Christian podcasts: Some of our team’s suggestions are the Exploring My Strange Bible Podcast (by Tim Mackie), Christianese (produced by Fathom Magazine) and Commoner's Communion (by New Zealander Strahan Coleman).
5. Alternately, go for a walk without any audio. Leave the AirPods behind, spend half an hour or more wandering in creation and offer up that time without distraction.