Updated: Sep 29
By Drew Zuverink
"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."
Have you ever wondered how you should spend your time? I often wish that Jesus would appear to me in person and tell me exactly how he'd like me to live the regular ordinary day. Would he ask me to serve a few hours at a homeless shelter? Or would he ask me to go door to door telling people about him? How much time would he want me to spend with my family, at work, watching football, or dare I ask - golfing? These are very good questions for followers of Christ to ask because we want our Heavenly Father to be pleased with how we are living this life he has blessed us with.
Some Christians would argue that since there are lost people who need Jesus, and since this life is temporary, we should spend almost all of our time doing things of eternal value. After all, we only get 24 hours in a day so each hour that we spend in our cubicle, walking the dogs, or practicing for the upcoming basketball game - is time that we aren't sharing the gospel with people who are destined for hell. If we really cared about the lost wouldn't we give up some of the earthly pleasures that we enjoy so that we can spend all of our time evangelizing? Earthly things don't really matter, what really matters is storing up treasure in heaven.
This way of thinking correctly understands that, as Christians, it is our duty to share the good news of Jesus with the lost. Hell is a real place and we are right to feel a sense of urgency because unless they hear and believe the gospel, many people are going to go there. That's a terrifying thought and it should move us to share Christ. But evangelizing is not the only reason that we are still alive on this earth.
In the very beginning before sin had entered the world, God created humankind to love him and to love each other. He also gave them a job. They were to care for and cultivate the earth while ruling over the rest of creation (Genesis 2:15). This is what theologians refer to as the cultural mandate. Not only were Adam and Eve to care for the earth but they were to cultivate it as well. Cultures thrive when the earth's natural resources are wisely harnessed for things like clean water, electricity, automobiles and beautiful houses. Have you ever noticed how the story of the Bible begins in a garden and ends with a city? Cultural advancement is not an inherently evil thing, when done well, it is what God wanted for us.
So if our work contributes to society then that matters to God. When we do our jobs well, whether it is on the assembly line, as a teacher, an accountant, a realtor, or as a professional athlete, not only does it contribute to culture but it is also a loving thing to do for others. Professional athletes bring us joy by entertaining us with their impressive skills. Factory workers act lovingly when they work hard to build chairs that young students will use to study in. Police officers love us by protecting us. Cashiers are needed for us to buy groceries, clothes, and other necessities. Think of your work, how does it contribute to our culture? How is it a blessing for others? God wants you to spend time working. It's one of the reasons you're on earth.
Creation is called good by God and we should not feel bad for enjoying it. It is wrong to say that the only things that truly matter are "spiritual things" like reading our Bibles or evangelizing. All things matter to God. We should spend time enjoying our families, working hard, visiting national parks, reading, and enjoying U of M football. In fact, we should make it our ambition to enjoy as much non sinful earthly pleasure as humanly possible in our lifetime!
That being said, all things do matter but some things matter more. I want my son to enjoy sports but I want him to love Jesus more because that matters more. Enjoying time on the boat matters, but being part of Sunday church gatherings matters more. My love of NFL football matters, but developing my spiritual health through personal devotions matters more. And last I checked hell didn't go anywhere so we should spend time telling people about Jesus.
So we should live in a place of healthy tension. We should not become so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good. And we should not become so busy enjoying earthly pleasures that we are of no heavenly good either. We should want to enjoy as much earthly pleasure as possible while striving to be of as much heavenly good as possible. The answer is not to have "balance" where we enjoy life a little bit so that we can share Jesus a little bit as well. No, instead we should make it our ambition to enjoy life a lot and tell people about Jesus a lot!
Somewhere in that tension is where God wants us to live. His creation is good and we should treat it that way. But sin has entered the world and people need Jesus. We need to remember both of those truths.
I still wish that Jesus would tell us exactly how much time he wants us to devote to certain things but that isn't going to happen. For now we must live in the tension, doing our best to remember that all things matter but some things matter more. Living a balanced life of enjoying culture and creation while also growing spiritually and sharing the gospel is the goal. Sometimes that balance is hard to live into though. So if we are going to lean one way, let's lean towards the side of what matters more.