EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals by Trevin Wax (Crossway).

SUBVERTING LEISURE: Making Jesus Lord of Our Free Time

IN THE LATE 1940s, George Orwell wrote a popular work of fiction entitled 1984. Orwell's dystopian novel describes a future world in which an all-observing government ("Big Brother") bans books, suppresses original thought, and polices all activities. For several decades, as Communism was rising in the East, many in the West feared that Orwell's vision of a worldwide totalitarian regime might soon come to pass. But after Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, the threat of such a regime diminished. Instead, the fictional world described in a different book, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (released in 1932) has become more likely.

Huxley's vision of the future stands in stark contrast to Orwell's. In Brave New World, the danger is not that books would be banned, but that people would be so entertained they would have no use for reading them. The hedonistic society in Huxley's book thrives on promiscuous sexual behavior, government-sponsored drugs, environmental conditioning, and genetic manipulation. Whereas Orwell envisioned a world in which the government used technology to hold people captive against their will, Huxley described a world in which people would love the technology that held them captive. Many aspects of Brave New World frighteningly resemble contemporary American culture. We live in a world of constant entertainment.


Human beings bear the image of a God who works and rests. In the first chapters of Genesis, we see God working to create the world and then resting from his labors. The divine rhythm of work and rest was instituted in God's blessing of the Sabbath and in his command to the Israelites to keep the day holy. According to Scripture, rest and leisure are gifts from God.

Although leisure is a good gift from God, it can easily take the place of God in our lives. When leisure becomes our reason for living, it stops being a friend and becomes a harsh taskmaster. We are robbed of the joy of working to the glory of God whenever our labor becomes simply a means to an end—a vacation, a new technological gizmo, or more time off for sporting events. This insidious Caesar blinds our vision so that we no longer see the danger in spending exorbitant amounts of money and time on nonstop entertainment.


I often wonder what people from an underdeveloped country (a place where homemade shrines to idols are still prevalent) might think if they could see the layout of the typical American living room. Might they ask, "What is that boxed idol in the center of the room that everything points to? Why do you spend so much time at your shrine to that box? What does it do for you?"

In a roundtable discussion with Silicon Valley investors, the CEO of TiVo (the digital television recorder), Michael Ramsay, spoke to the issue of "storage anxiety." Consumers get anxious because they record so many television programs on their TiVo that they are unable to find time to watch them all. Investor Roger McNamee piped up, saying, "We just want to have a ton of stuff on some storage thing somewhere so that when the urge hits us, we can be entertained!"

Pastor John Piper writes:

Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. . . . The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you're watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels.