by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
The child has a room full of action figures, video games, cable TV, DVD player, a huge collection of movies, every piece of sports equipment known to man, his own telephone, a fully loaded computer with high-speed Internet access ... but he doesn't have a thing to do. He's bored.
Boredom is the plague of every parent with a child out of school. The cries of "I'm bored!" seem to echo through the house just hours after school lets out. Boredom is not just an irritation, it is the symptom of a deeper spiritual problem. People with time on their hands get into all sorts of mischief, whether they are young or old. "But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some have already turned aside after Satan" (I Timothy 5:11-15). Boredom often leads to drug and alcohol abuse as people seek out new thrills. Boredom is often the motivating factor behind adultery, which then leads to divorce. It can even lead to suicide as people despair of life. Truly, boredom can be a serious matter.
The Causes of Boredom
Surprisingly, having too much leads to dissatisfaction with what you already have. You see there is a law of diminishing returns. "Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit" (Proverbs 25:16, see also verse 27). A treat once in a while tastes wonderful, but too many sweets is not nearly as delightful and can ruin your health. With any "good thing," there is a limit to the amount we can enjoy before it becomes detrimental to us.
Therefore, when pleasure becomes our first priority, the ironic result is boredom. When we overindulge in fun, each thing becomes less and less fun. However, people want the full impact that they experienced at the beginning. Hence, ceaseless pleasures cause ceaseless efforts by people to rekindle the initial thrill they experienced. When they can't get the full impact again, they decide they are bored.
It was having too much that lead to the moral decay of Sodom and Gomorrah. "Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit" (Ezekiel 16:49-50). Long before Israel abandoned God, God warned that their prosperity would lead them astray. "For the LORD'S portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, So the LORD alone led him, and there was no foreign god with him. He made him ride in the heights of the earth, that he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock; curds from the cattle, and milk of the flock, with fat of lambs; and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the choicest wheat; and you drank wine, the blood of the grapes. But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; you grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, and scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to gods they did not know, to new gods, new arrivals that your fathers did not fear" (Deuteronomy 32:9-17).
Overabundance leads to actions similar to a heroin addict. As the addict's body becomes used the drug it has, the addict takes larger doses to achieve an ever diminishing high. Have you not noticed it in our society? Movies that once titillated their audience with subtle innuendoes are becoming more explicit to keep their audiences entertained. Subtly no longer thrills. But that is because the thrill comes from the shock of taboos being broken. "Stolen water is sweet, And bread eaten in secret is pleasant" (Proverbs 9:17). Water is water, but the excitement of breaking a law adds extra "flavor" to the water. People frequently step over the line of propriety to get their thrills. However, as their conscience becomes seared from the exposure, it takes more shocking things to produce diminishing thrills. As society continues to press for greater thrills, the line of propriety is moved further and further out.
The end result is that covetousness, or greed, doesn't bring happiness. It brings sorrow. "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (I Timothy 6:10). In the never ending pursuit of gaining more things a person eventually compromises his morals -- morals that protected a person from harm.
When a child is bored, there is a temptation on his parent's part to solve the problem by giving him more things. Oddly, instead of helping the parent is perpetuating the problem. Instead of improving the child's life, the parent is causing harm.
When adults get bored, we end up applying the same solution. We buy ourselves goodies to make ourselves feel better. If we can't afford it, that is all right, we just add to our debt until we are swimming in a despairing sea of obligations we can never repay in our lifetime. "Things" don't bring happiness.
Laziness is another factor that causes boredom. Having nothing to do produces more of the same in a person's life. "Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, And an idle person will suffer hunger" (Proverbs 19:15). You would think that with the time in the world to relax, a lazy person would be bright and chipper. Instead, laziness has the opposite affect. Lazy people spend more time in bed than busy people and their extra sleep doesn't benefit them. "As a door turns on its hinges, so does the lazy man on his bed" (Proverbs 26:14). A door swings back and forth in one place, just as the lazy bum flips from side to side in his bed.
Without work, there is no improvement in a person's life. Without something to do, a person fills his spare time getting involved in the affairs of other peoples' lives. "For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies" (II Thessalonians 3:11).
Nor does laziness bring happiness. The lazy man is too bored to even enjoy his indulgences. "A lazy man buries his hand in the bowl, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again" (Proverbs 19:24). He may have things, but they bring no enjoyment. "The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man's precious possession" (Proverbs 12:27).
If you are bored, sitting around the house mopping doesn't solve the problem.
Solving the Problem of Boredom
When will we learn that life is not defined by the number of toys that we accumulate? "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15). In many cases, having less is actually better.
Proverbs 15:16, "Better is a little with the fear of the LORD, than great treasure with trouble."
Proverbs 15:17, "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred."
Proverbs 16:8, "Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice."
Proverbs 17:1, "Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife."
Ecclesiastes 4:6, "Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind."
Too often the things we accumulate distract us from the meaningful things we already possess. The more things we gather, the more our focus is on this world, and the less we focus on God. It is when we have little that we appreciate what we have and remember to show our appreciation to the Giver of all things. "Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (I Timothy 6:6-10).
Are you happy? Truly happy? If you never gained another possession, if you never received another pay raise, would you be content with your lot in life? So often we deceive ourselves into thinking that if we just had one more thing or made a bit more money, then we will be happy. Yet when those things do come our way, we are already thinking that if we had some thing else or just a little bit more, then we would be happy. "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:11-13).
Our approach to life usually determines our attitude toward life. A miser remains a miser even if he has a guest over. "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. "Eat and drink!" he says to you, but his heart is not with you" (Proverbs 23:7). Jesus warns us that sins originate from within our hearts (Mark 7:21-22). Hence, the answer to boredom is deciding not to be bored! If you allow yourself to feel bored, you will be. Those who decide they won't be bored, won't be. Do you remember as a child whining about having to go to Aunt Bertha's? "It will be so boring!" The visit hasn't even started, but guess how it will likely end? Most situations live up or down to our expectations.
Many complain that church services are boring. Yet, consider this admonition: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). When you throw yourself into something, suddenly it is not nearly so boring. "For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Hebrews 6:10-12). Do you think Abraham or Moses found serving God boring? What then made the difference between their service to God and your service? I submit that the key factor was their attitude toward what they did. "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23-24).
Rather than wasting the precious time in our short lives complaining that we have nothing to do, we need to totally involve ourselves in life. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Boredom cannot take root in the life of a person who is improving himself. Notice in this next quote how often the word "diligence" is mentioned. "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:5-11). The idea is to work at improving yourself. When you are busy improving your character, you will not have time to be bored. And unlike indulging yourself with physical things, there is no diminishing returns to spiritual growth. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).
Be Someone New
No longer live for yourself, but live for Christ. "For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (II Corinthians 5:14-17). No longer should we think in terms of what I want, or what makes me happy, or why I'm bored, but draw ourselves out of the rut of our old life and seek out how to serve God. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:1-2).
By this we shall glorify God. "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples" (John 15:8).