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It’s long been said that money can’t buy happiness, but a recent study put that cliché to the test and found that it’s not always true. As The Washington Post‘s Jenna Gallegos writes, those who use their money to buy more free time through outsourcing tasks like cleaning the house and mowing the yard, or by taking the tollway to and from work, were less stressed and generally happier than those who spent their money on material goods. And while that may seem like something only the well-off can afford, the study’s results were consistent across most income levels.
Unfortunately, few of us live like that. Only two percent of people reported that, if given forty dollars to spend, buying more free time would be among their initial purchases. As the study’s lead author, Ashley Whillans, put it, “People are notoriously bad at making decisions that will make them happier.” The primary reason is that it’s far more difficult to measure the value of our time than it is movie tickets, a new dress, or a few more hours at the office.
Freeing up your schedule, however, won’t make a difference if you spend that extra time making yourself busier. The benefits are only seen in those who use those extra hours to slow down and reduce the stress in their lives. While that may not seem like an earth-shattering revelation, how many of us actually live that way?
Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus take the time to slow down and get away from the madness that so often surrounded him. Luke, for example, tells us that Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). The Greek tense clarifies that such actions were a regular part of his ministry.
However, that pattern of withdrawing to pray is telling for another reason as well. When Luke drops that little tidbit about Christ into his Gospel, he does so in the midst of stories describing all the amazing things Jesus was doing in the towns and villages he visited. Our Lord didn’t wait until there was no more work to be done or people to heal before getting away because he knew that life seldom affords us such natural breaks. Rather, Jesus was intentional about setting aside time to get away from the never-ending list of genuinely good and important things to simply be with the Father and rest.
As Christians, we frequently talk about stewardship and how we are to give back to God from what he has so graciously given to us. We often neglect, however, to take into account our most precious resource: time. If God has blessed us with the means to buy ourselves a little bit of free time every now and again, then perhaps part of the reason is to better enable us to spend it with him.
But whether that means paying someone to clean the house, saying no to serving on a committee at church, or simply going to bed a bit earlier to make time for him the following morning, most of us could benefit by following Christ’s example and making time with the Father a higher priority in our lives.