Watching parents pass time while waiting for their kids is instructive. Recently, while my son was at gymnastics, a grandma passed the hour by knitting, while the person beside her passed the hour on her phone. It’s a picture of two ways we use our leisure time: by creating or by consuming. 


Knitting is a creative act. Crafting scarves, gloves, and sweaters from a roll of wool is an active way to spend time and a tangible way to love someone by gifting them the thing knitted. By contrast, spending an hour on my phone is often passive consumption. I’m not engaged in anything tactile or creative. If I spent an hour on my phone, I probably got stuck doom-scrolling or jumping down YouTube rabbit holes. 


Doing something creative gives us a sense of meaning and of time well spent. Meanwhile, mere consumption leaves us bloated but empty. This points us to a deeper spiritual reality. Mere consumption isn’t good for us. 


Fattened by Consumption


The prophet Amos confronted corrupt leadership in Israel. He was God’s mouthpiece holding them accountable and warning them of inevitable judgement for their injustice and idolatry. But they wouldn’t listen to him because they were too fat from overconsumption. Amos describes them like this: 


“They lie on beds inlaid with ivory, sprawled out on their couches, and dine on lambs from the flock and calves from the stall. They improvise songs to the sound of the harp and invent their own musical instruments like David. They drink wine by the bowlful and anoint themselves with the finest oils but do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.” (Amos 6:4-6). 


They are lazy in luxury, gorging themselves on the best wine, rather than caring for the people under their leadership. Even their song-making is a selfish indulgence. They are consistently passive consumers and so have become like fattened calves, ripe for the barbeque. 


There is danger lurking behind consuming so much content via social media and streaming. If we constantly spend our leisure time consuming and doing so passively, we are in danger of becoming fattened and deaf to the voice of God. It is hard to see the world or the wonder of God with our eyes transfixed on a small screen.


Commit to Create


Throwing away phones and cancelling subscriptions won’t solve the puzzle. Wisdom requires something more of us. It requires committing to habits that open our eyes to the glory of God and our ears to the word of God. It requires habits of creativity, not mere consumption. 


God is the Creator and every fiber of his creation speaks of his glory (Psalm 19). As we commit to create and be active with our hands and our minds, we commit to something essential for bearing God’s image. In Genesis 1:28 God commands humanity to “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” God’s first command is a call to create. It’s a command to engage with the world using all the skills God gives. People are not to become passive consumers but active agents, filling and ruling in God’s world. They reflect the creativity of God by working with their hands and their minds to create. 


God made us to behold his glory and reflect his character. Sin corrupts us away from God’s intent, but Jesus puts an end to sin and rebuilds the image of God in us. Paul equates our new status in Christ, and the transformation it causes with “being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator” (Col 3:10). God did not make us and he does not save us so we can become passive consumers. 


Here is how I would apply this to myself. As a dad, I’m okay with my son having his favorite YouTube channels, but I also want him to play with Lego, do gymnastics, draw pictures, and read books. I also want him to learn to use technology for creative purposes. We use GarageBand on my laptop to make songs and we’ll play video games together, pushing back against technology’s pull toward isolation. I want to model for him and encourage him to prize active creativity. 


Learning to be active and creative trains us to be alert to the world and alive to the wonder of God. I don’t want to be a mere consumer. By God’s grace, I want to glorify him by creating good and beautiful things.

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