Friday, August 20, 2010

On the Virtue of Wasting Time by Carl Trueman

One of the amazing things about modern American culture is surely the pathological fear of wasting time.  It is especially evident in the attitude to children.  Public school kids have their lives scheduled from morning till night; homeschool parents seem to regard any second of the day from the age of two that isn't used to learn Latin poetry or the cello or conversational Swahili as time that is wasted.  It's a far cry from my childhood, when school ran from 9 in the morning till 4 in the afternoon, and then I was free to ride my bike, walk on the common, or just sit around with friends.  And it continues in to later life: all the technology we have, and people seem to have less free time than ever.

Indeed, we have surely lost the virtue that is laziness.  As Kierkegaard once said, 'Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good' -- a truly amazing theological insight.   Some may think that that maybe going a bit far, but compared to the idea that the essence of humanity is busy-ness, it is much to be preferred.

The greatest testament to the power of wasted time in the history of the church is surely Luther's Table Talk.  A collection of anecdotes and sayings collected by Luther's closest friends, it reflects the full range of Luther as pastor, mentor, Christian and friend.    Reading the comments, from advice to young preachers (`The sixth mark of a good preacher is knowing when to stop.') to comments on lawyers (`One only studies something as dirty as law in order to make money') to general observations on life, some of which don't bear repeating on a polite blog such as this, I suspect Luther's table companions learned more about life and ministry while drinking beer and having a laugh with the Meister than in the university lecture hall.

Numerous applications come to mind: seminary is the people with whom you strike up friendships (a point which must be taken into account as seminaries move towards more distance education);friendships (real, embodied friendships that are not exclusively mediated through pixels) are crucial to staying the course of ministry -- laughter in the face of adversity and hardship not only being vital in this regard but also, of course, an almost exclusively social phenomenon that requires company; drinking beer with friends is perhaps the most underestimated of all Reformation insights and essential to ongoing reform; and wasting time with a choice friend or two on a regular basis might be the best investment of time you ever make.
Reformation 21

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