Sloth versus relaxation – is watching TV okay?

Father Matthew Spencer, host of St. Joseph’s Workshop, recently began watching a newly released season of a popular show on Netflix with one of his brother priests. Some people, he recognized, stay up all night watching the entire season of a show. But watching TV isn’t always bad. He reflected on the difference between sloth and relaxation, and why taking a break is important.

“On one hand, people are wasting a lot of time watching TV … on the other hand we have the world telling us that if you want to succeed, you’re not even 40% there even if you’re giving all of your time – even if you’re working really really really hard and giving 100% of your waking hours – that’s not going to be enough. Well, here’s the thing: when you look to Jesus – Jesus took breaks. Jesus rested. Jesus had leisure time,” said Fr. Matthew.

“Did you know that ancient philosophers talked about leisure time as an essential part of being a human being – as an important part of what it means to live – to spend sometime relaxing? We know that’s important for us. It gets your mind growing, it gets you ruminating about things, and it gets you refreshed. This is an important part of life, of course. And Jesus also rested; He took breaks. He had to step back from public ministry and find time for Himself to recharge His batteries and renew that relationship with His Heavenly Father.”

How do we find balance between relaxation and laziness? “It’s easy to be slothful and end up wasting so much time watching TV, looking at social media. It’s so easy to sometimes just waste the time that God has given to you and me. On the other hand, it’s not possible and it’s not part of being human to simply spend 100% of our time working. It’s not what we’re called to do because we need to be refreshed,” he said.

We are called to work hard, but not constantly be working. “The fact is that we can’t spend 100% of our time doing stuff. We need to spend 100% of our time being in relationship with Jesus. One hundred percent of our time means being with the Lord. Sometimes that’s going to be being with Him while you’re working hard, changing diapers, working at the office, doing what you have to do in your ordinary responsibilities of life. And sometimes it’s going to mean relaxing with your family, which, by the way, is an important part of your life. And its not sloth to spend to some downtime with them, as long as it’s part of your routine; as long as it’s part of keeping you refreshed and focused on the Lord.”

“I’m not saying it’s slothful to take a few hours and have a good time with friends and family and to watch the whole season of a newly released show on Netflix, as long as it’s a wholesome one; as long as it’s not leading you into sin and temptation,” said Fr. Spencer. “That’s not slothful. But you have to realize that that’s just one component of giving your life to God – giving your life and being a saint for Him 100%.”

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Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.