How many times do you say each week, "I'm too busy"?  Or, even worse, how many times do you think "I'm too busy"?

Most of us think we are. Tony Reinke has written an interesting book (Lit!) in which he talks about the importance of reading and very practical issues like what to read and how to read. One of his chapters is called "Too busy to read" - and certainly many of us excuse our lack of reading on account of having too little time to do so. He does the math to prove that if the average reader were to read for one hour per day, he would read more than 70 books per year.

But who has an extra hour each day waiting to be filled? The average America adult (aged 18-34) spends 116 minutes each day watching television, so there should be some discretionary time available there. But quite apart from that, we are not as busy as we think.

I've been reading some of the sermons of J.C.Ryle from the 1880's. In one, he is talking about the fact that we spend our lives banking on promises - so we should know how to believe the promises of Scripture too. He uses the example that we believe the promise of our employer to pay us. As he put it to his typical English congregation, "The labourer works hard from Monday morning to Saturday night because he believes that at the end of the week he shall receive his promised wages". That illustration wouldn't work today! But it related to their life then. No day off other than Sunday - and that was filled with church services. No dishwashers or washing machines; no computers. And we think we are busy? Do we really have no time to read?

Reinke quotes (p.131f) from the research of Robert Lee who calculated the leisure time available to Americans in 1964. In his research, he compared the leisure time available to modern Americans to that for an average American worker in the mid-1800's:

It is striking to note that the working man of a century ago spent some seventy hours per week on the job and lived about forty years. Today he spends some forty hours per week at work and can expect to live about seventy years. This adds something like twenty-two more years of leisure to his life, about 1500 free hours each year, and a total of some 33,000 additional free hours that the man born today has to enjoy!"

That opens up the opportunity to read a lot of new books! Of course there are other fruitful ways to spend such an enormous amount of time. "Time is money," we are told. If so, were we to put a dollar figure on Lee's calculation, we would see that God has has truly made us incredibly wealthy with his wonderful gift of 33,000 hours of discretionary time.

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). There are plenty of good books that might help us make good use of some of that spare time.