Francis Chan once posed an interesting challenge to his family: limit your television watching time to the same number of hours you spend studying God’s Word. As with any household, especially those that have children, the challenge was not very popular at first but everyone was soon on board. When I read this, I had a couple of thoughts. One, what a brilliant idea and something I immediately knew I was going to put into practice in my own life.
Second, I was deeply saddened that there would be any resistance to the challenge, knowing full well that I would have reacted the same way had my father suggested this when I was growing up. Worse, I know deep down that the challenge still feels daunting. Why is it we are so much more willing to spend our time on things of this world than with the God who created everything in the first place?
I’ve been reading a lot of 17th century writers Francois Fenelon and Jean Pierre de Caussade. Much of their writing focuses on living with total abandonment to God, living a life that is indeed crucified with Christ. I have been moved and challenged in new ways by their teaching. I have also been mortified by what I see in the mirror, a man so willing to exchange the beauty of the eternal for the filth of the temporary. Every breath we take is a gift from God Himself. Every moment we spend on ourselves is a moment stolen from God. While our loving Creator would never put something in such terms, I find it helpful to imagine God saying, “Don’t waste my time”. Or perhaps more correctly I think God is constantly imploring us to not waste the time He has gifted to us.
That’s why I believe trading TV for God is brilliant. If we have nothing better to do with our time than watch television (or Facebook, or web surf, or tweet, snapchat, Instagram, or insert your vice here.), then we should certainly be spending at least an equal amount of time growing in our relationship with God. Since we are commanded to give God the first portion of our gifts we should first spend time praying, studying the Bible, and reading or listening to spiritually nourishing books and programs. However much time we spend on those activities, that’s how much time we could then permit ourselves to watch television.
The challenge is to not plod through our study time so we can look forward to the “leisure” time we’ve earned. The time spent growing closer to our Creator should be the highlight of everything we do. While it might not happen in the beginning, I believe that the closer we draw to God, the less we will even care about the mindless activities we currently find so hard to believe we could ever live without.
Are you up to the challenge? Are you ready to spend at least as much time with God as you do your television, computer, tablet, or phone? Do you love God more than these? I think it’s time each of us discover the answer for ourselves.