Letters to My Friend -

Thoughts On the Need for Entertainment

by Mary E. Stephens
Dec. 20, 2020

Dear Friend,

Just some rambling thoughts this time.

I was talking to a friend recently and I mentioned something that stuck with me, namely that I think one of the problems we're having with people going a bit crazy over COVID is that so many people in the U.S. (and other countries, I'm sure) are addicted to entertainment. It is actually "the drug of choice" for many people. I admit that I have to examine myself when I say this because I enjoy a good read and some videos myself at times. These are things that are available at home as much as anywhere. But there are many people who feel compelled to go out somewhere to do something to be entertained. Whether it's eating out, going to a movie, participating in sports, shopping, going to a specific place to be seen, or whatever else, there are many ways people seek entertainment outside their homes.

When my grandpa was a boy their neighbors would sometimes sneak up to their back door, open it, and push a large tub of pop corn through. Then they would walk around to the front door and knock. When someone answered the door they would say they had come over to play games. They knew my grandpa's family was poor (his father was dead) and so they thoughtfully made sure to provide the "refreshments" for the evening. My grandpa remembered those times with genuine fondness. I wonder how many people sit down with neighbors to play games now - not their own specific friends, but their neighbors. A few, I'm sure. But, the need for something more exciting is there for a lot of people. This would be far too tame and "boring."

We were raised in my home to learn to find ways to entertain ourselves. One way my parents encouraged this was by severely limiting our exposure to television in our own home. We only had one television set, occasionally. We were encouraged in crafts and hobbies that kept our hands and/or minds busy. We were also encouraged to interact with people of all ages, in a social way, in our home and church.

I played this song recently and some of the words fell into place with these thoughts.

There's a line that is drawn by rejecting our Lord,
Where the call of His Spirit is lost,
And you hurry along with the pleasure-mad throng -
Have you counted, have you counted the cost?

You may barter your hope of eternity's morn,
For a moment of joy at the most,
For the glitter of sin and the things it will win -
Have you counted, have you counted the cost?

One thing that bothers me is to realize how many Christians, people who really have counted the cost and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, are still "hurrying along with the pleasure-mad throng" and are caught up in the "glitter of sin." It has become so much a part of our culture and custom that some find it hard to think of living any other way. Being forced to stay home, to limit activities, to find one's own entertainment has made many people extremely frustrated and angry, even people who claim Christ. It really shouldn't be that way.

A lot of people don't know how to entertain themselves without an outside source. Sitting and looking at the stars or taking a nature walk or reading or drawing are too "boring" for some people or require too much of their own input without immediate personal satisfaction or approval from others. I'm inclined to think that for too many this is an indication of an unhealthy relationship with entertainment.

As I mentioned, books and movies can be enjoyed at home. But, there are definitely things there that should not be enjoyed. Novels that are sexually suggestive, dark, or sensual can draw us in and captivate our imaginations in an evil way. Movies and television and online videos even more so as they enter through the eye and ear gates simultaneously. It's more than a little disturbing to think about how people would react if their movies and T.V. were all removed at the same time as they were told to stay home. I expect we would see even worse tension and anger than has erupted in recent times. People wouldn't know what to do with themselves, and I think a lot of them would resort to bad measures.

Where am I going with this?

Well, I think we need to ponder how we entertain ourselves. Are we so dependent upon specific outside activities that are strictly vanity in nature, that we can't live without them?

Do you go shopping when you are sad or need to be cheered up? What an empty pursuit - unless you're shopping for an orphanage or some poor people you know. But most women who shop for entertainment do so for themselves, not for charity. Shopping isn't evil in and of itself, but when it's used for comfort or to release stress it is being used for a wrong purpose. Why? Because our comfort and help is in Jesus Christ, not spending money or finding a great deal on another piece of clothing or shoes we don't need.

Shopping isn't my thing, so I'll mention something that hits closer to home for me.

Do you bury yourself in a make-believe world of fiction when you are sad or struggling? Whether it is books or movies or games or even theater, this can draw us into wasteful and pointless pursuits. Again, these things can have their place, but when we use them to satisfy a need that Jesus wants to meet for us we are using them in a wrong way.

Can we find useful ways to spend our time doing creative things that have a good purpose in the end? I'm not talking about a cool DIY project to add another piece of useless decor to your house so that you have one more thing to spend time dusting. Ouch. I mean, what can we find to do that has some lasting benefit to us or someone else to the glory of God?

Titus 3:14 And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.

1 Chronicles 29:18 O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:

This was part of the prayer of David as he prepared to die. He was leaving his son, Solomon, as king and put him in charge of building a temple for God. He wanted the people of Israel to have their imaginations stirred forever by this house of worship that they were to build. He wanted their hearts to be towards God.

Does that book or movie or activity that stimulates your imagination actually help you think more Christ-centered thoughts? Does it make you stronger in your walk with God? Does it leave you refreshed and encouraged to keep pressing forward? Does it make you more ambitious to do useful things? Those are tough questions, I will admit. I don't feel entirely comfortable with them myself. Except I know this: I have read books and seen things and done things that left me feeling refreshed in spirit and lifted up in mind and heart toward the Lord and I know how inspiring that is. It makes me wonder why I would waste my time on lesser things. What about you?

Mark 6:31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

Let me just say, rest is not spending a lot of money to spin around in circles and be dazzled by light shows and people in grotesque or gorgeous costumes. I've been there and done that before it was even as crazy as it is now, and it was not restful.

Did you know what rest and relaxation will look like during the Kingdom reign of Jesus Christ on this earth?

Micah 4:4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.

That doesn't sound much like Disney World or a packed tour vacation to a foreign country. In fact, it sounds a lot like what people are complaining about in the lock downs this year. Funny that. You mean people are actually going to stay home a lot and like it? You mean they are going to be content without all the various types of media to keep them stirred up and in fear? That's pretty much what that is saying, isn't it?

Is it bad to go visit another country as a tourist? Not necessarily, depending on your reasons for going and how you spend your time. But, don't fool yourself into thinking that is rest. It isn't. It is usually more entertainment. If you choose wisely, it may even edify you in some way. But, most of the time people come home exhausted and sometimes actually sick, and generally it is all about filling the eyes and ears with some new thing. Don't make the mistake of thinking that chasing experiences for experiences' sake is a better way to live. At the bottom line it is still vanity and vexation of spirit.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

The fashion (form, state, shape) of this world is meant to pass away. That is what God intends should happen! It's weird to hear so many Christians lamenting and complaining about that happening on a small scale as it has this year. (It's even stranger to hear them talking like somehow the solution to the problems will come from the government, but that is another topic for another time.)

Our satisfaction shouldn't be in things of this passing world. We may use this world, but we should not be abusing it. According to Webster's 1828 dictionary the first definition of "abuse" is "To use ill; to maltreat; to misuse; to use with bad motives or to wrong purposes; as, to abuse rights or privileges." Guess what the example is that was given? 1 Corinthians 7:31. Using entertainment as a source of solace and comfort or as an addiction to escape reality is abusing the things of this world.

There are many areas where Christians go to the world looking for answers or help or comfort that we are meant to find in Jesus Christ or the blessings of God's creation. Not every bit of what is called entertainment is evil, but we need to very cautious about what we allow into our lives in that area. I say that to myself as much as anyone. I know it can be an easy distraction. Finding a better way won't look the same in every life or situation, but we should desire better things.

And, last, but not least, we Christians shouldn't be complaining and thrashing against life and the government when our entertainments and luxuries are taken away, even temporarily. Ultimately, those complaints aren't against the situation or those we imagine are responsible to "fix it." If we trust that God is sovereign and in control of all things, then our complaints are ultimately against Him. That should give us pause to consider. (If you need more examples in that line, see the book of Job.) 

Are we rushing along with the pleasure mad throng? How dependent are we on our external sources of entertainment anyway? How dependent are we on our entertainment sources in our own homes?

Colossians 3:15-17 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Because Jesus Loves You, Mary Stephens

 

background and graphics by Mary Stephens
vintage graphic: unknown source