Playing like God

How can you image God at work, leisure and play? In the Bible, we have clear instruction on how we can do this. No longer do you have to have feel and think fuzzily on how to spend your time. God cares about how you work, have leisure and  play, and he gives us Guidelines to do all three. The Biblical information comes primarily through Genesis 1–2, however brief explorations into other biblical literature also produce some benefit.

Imaging God’s Work

God created the world in six days, declaring it “very good” (Gen 1:31). Then he rested on the Seventh day (Gen 2:1–3). That God worked and apparently enjoyed his work (he said it was very good!) gives people a model to understand work.

While many view work as a means to live, or as means to pay for entertainment, or as a means to live a certain kind of lifestyle, God views work as something natural, normal and human. Working with joy, with creativity, and with purpose emulates God. Thus, work proclaims God’s glory, name and fame, giving dignity and purpose to work.

While Capitalism says that work is a commodity to be bartered with and sold, God says work in itself is a dignified and honorable profession that he authorized. While Socialism says that work belongs to the community, God says he owns work, not the community. The highest good is not wealth or social utopia but God’s glory spanning the world.

In short, neither a boss, money or community owns a person’s work. God owns it and he gives a special dignity to it, as a working God. Humanity must realize this and must do all things to the glory of God. Depreciating work at its worst is dishonoring God whose glory is in work.

Imaging God’s Leisure

God rested on the seventh day and enjoyed his creation (Gen 2:1–3). Leisure does not require production but an appreciation of production. The workaholic understands this little. He works until he drops, steam rolling over anyone in his path. Success and prestige are what make work worthwhile and leisure does not fit into this scheme. The entire Western world seems enamored by the glamour and glory of success.

Leisure makes one feel guilty, therefore. Even in leisure, workaholics think about work. Or, they become so exhausted because of work that leisure becomes a mindless shut down, watching television passively without energy to do anything else. Work becomes an idol, a need and workaholics have no energy or time for anything else, much less leisure.

But God rested. He enjoyed his work. Later Israel would be commanded to rest on the Sabbath day because God did so when he created (cf. Ex 20:8–11). In fact, because of humanity’s tendency to an attitude of acquisition, God made his people rest in various festivals and worship events. Leisure was built into the fabric of Israel’s life. So in creation, God set a template whereby man should emulate his leisure.

Significantly, however, leisure does not involve passivity. Throughout Scripture, leisure  in religious events or enjoying one’s production is to be done with vigor. True leisure lends to worship of God, introspection, cultivation of abilities or increase of knowledge that a typical day of work will not allow, and fellowship with others. Leisure, thus, is as important as work to making a complete a person. Without leisure one cannot properly image God.

Reclaiming leisure as a time of personal enrichment, relationship building, enjoyment of God’s creation or any such activity is necessary to image God. Accepting that six out of seven days God worked, one must realize that was to set up the template of work and rest in creation. Work originally was not toilsome but enjoyable and probably had the character of leisure and play intertwined throughout until the fall happened.

Leisure must be reclaimed to image God properly on earth and fulfill the mission to spread God’s glory. This is a moral issue.  God cares about how people spend our time in leisure.

Imaging God’s Play

Leland Ryken best explains how God “plays.” He is quoted at length here:

At the heart of God’s creation is something extravagant and gratuitous, going beyond what is strictly needed for survival. Someone has commented that the lilies of that Jesus told us to contemplate ‘are lazy lilies, occupying space amid the common field grasses for no reason other than that it pleases God. Can we appreciate God’s creative prodigality?’ God made provision for the quality of human life, simply its survival. He is the God who came that people “may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). At its best, leisure is part of the human quest for the abundant life.[1]

It was this beautiful creation that God playfully made. Consider the Jerusalem Bible translation of Proverbs 8:30–31:

I was by his side, a master craftsman,

delighting him day after day,

ever at play in his presence,

at play everywhere in his world,

delighting to be with the sons of men

This remarkable Proverb concerning creation illustrates something of the playfulness of God. With regard to the sea, Psalm 104:26 says, “There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.” In these passages (others exist), God added an element of play into the created order.

Thus, humanity should not to shy away from joviality and playfulness in life. Since God is this way, monotone humdrummers do not image God properly. Of course, all of this must be measured by the effects of the fall of man, the subsequent revelation of Jesus, and redeemed humanity’s ability to image God in this life.

***Later this week, we will look at how the fall of mankind affected the way we work, take leisure and play. We will also see how Jesus did these things. Until then!


            [1] Ryken, 179.

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