If you profess that the Scriptures are your final - even, sole - authority in faith and practice, then examining your choices for recreation and entertainment by the Scriptures should be natural and desirable to you. In our modern era of cheap grace, this seems to be less a concern than ever.
Often, it seems like many professing Christians mirror the words of Jeremiah's generation, who were rebuked by God Almighty: Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? (Jer. 7:9-10). Now, it may be true that most professing Christians do not actively participate in the abominations mentioned in the passage above, but if it is true that God hates such activities, can we justify finding pleasure in the depiction of such activities for entertainment?
Numerous passages of Scripture provide us with clear principles related to the activities and things in which the Lord delights as well as the things He hates. There is indeed liberty in Christ, but that liberty is clearly bounded by the lines drawn in Scripture.
Should we test our entertainment choices by Scripture?
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (I Thessalonians 5:21)
In context, Paul is speaking of conduct within the church. At the same time, what can applied to the testing (proving) of things in the church must also be applied to the daily life of the believer. Of course, testing inevitably involves making a judgment about what is right and what is wrong. This itself is a hurdle many people have no desire to confront. If, though, you profess the Scriptures as your authority, you are obligated to test all of your activities according to the Scripture. (Incidentally, those who do not profess the Scriptures as their authority may not be hypocritical in that regard, but make no mistake, your activities will be ultimately judged according to Scripture. Read John 12:48.)
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:...proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (Ephesians 5:8, 10-11)
Two truths come to light here. The first is that believers are commanded to prove (discern or test the genuineness of) what is acceptable to the Lord. The second is that there is to be a separation from the unfruitful works of darkness. Hollywood, anyone?
Does it violate a clear Scriptural principle?
Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? (Habakkuk 1:13)
This should "go without saying," as the old saying goes. In reality, this question finds rare application in many professing Christian homes today. Think about it: if God hates lying, drunkenness, adultery, murder, fornication, sodomy, stealing, idolatry, lust, violence, and covetousness, not setting it before His eyes, why would He find pleasure in you setting it before your eyes, or in your mind, or wilfully filling your ears with it, or allowing that sort of joking on your lips? The verse above is part of a question made by the prophet Habakkuk who understood God's holiness and questioned Him as to why He allowed the wicked to carry on in their wickedness before His eyes. The answer that follows throughout the book is that God is merciful, although judgment will come. It is evident throughout the book, though, that God's mercy in withholding judgment for the wickedness of the nation was not due to His being entertained by it!
Does it glorify God and does it edify His people (me included)?
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31)
Since we were created in His image and after His likeness for His pleasure, there is not one area of our lives that ought not to be submitted to His Word and carried out for His glory. Notice how it extends even to eating and drinking.
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. (Romans 14:19)
Christian liberty is a favorite topic today behind which many people hide all sorts of activities and lusts that can actually be judged according to the Scriptures. It's interesting to note that Paul's conclusion in areas of liberty was that if the liberty caused someone else to stumble, the liberty was not to be exercised (I Cor. 8:9-13). Lest you think that this was unique to Paul, consider the words also of Peter, who exhorted believers to stand fast in the face of societal pressure and persecution, As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. (I Pet. 2:15-16)
Does it minimize, mock, or glorify sin?
Fools make a mock at sin:1 but among the righteous there is favour. (Proverbs 14:9)
Entertainment, recreation, or speech that makes light of sin or of the guilt associated with sin is characteristic of fools. Does it glorify God, for example, to find humour in drunkenness?
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness [obscenity/shamefulness], nor foolish talking [buffoonery/silly talk], nor jesting [filthy/vulgar joking], which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. (Ephesians 5:3-4)
Although Eph. 5:1-2 is not cited above, it should be noted that verses 3-4 are connected to verses 1-2 with the adversative/continuative conjunction δὲ, appropriately translated as "but." Thus, the ideas of "following God, as dear children" and "walking in love" are set in opposition to the prohibited behaviour mentioned in verses 3 and 4. Can it be Biblical to say that someone can continually and characteristically engage in those behaviours while loving Christ and following God? May a follower of Christ take pleasure in such things?
Is it a waste of my time? More importantly, is it a waste of God's time?
See then, that ye walk circumspectly [prudently, warily, as being aware of all circumstances], not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Our time here is short. We have only a brief lifetime in which to fulfil our calling as ambassadors of Christ. Relaxation and rest are not evil in themselves. However, we ought to put our minds to discerning whether we are buying back time for the Lord with our activities, or whether we are frittering it away and wasting it.
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. (Colossians 4:5)
Much can be extrapolated from the notion of "walking in wisdom toward them that are without." Suffice to say, when an inordinate amount of time is spent on our desires with little godly profit, we cannot be walking in wisdom either in reference to ourselves, or to them without.
Does it build a bridge to the world (lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life)?
For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. (Romans 16:19)
Most of our learning should be at the feet of godly, separated, knowledgeable (as in, Bible knowledge) believers. Strategies for church growth, child rearing, personal development, worship, the Christian life should not be borrowed from the world. Although beyond the scope of this article, the application of a passage like Psalm 50:16-17 would involve a rejection of any "Biblical" movies produced by Hollywood. There is little basis for entertainment that teaches us more about the worldliness and evil ways of our society.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (I John 2:15-16)
What exactly does it mean to love the world? Until recently, the answer to that question was fairly easy. The entertainment, lusts, interests of the ungodly world were forsaken by professing Christians. Now, however, many professing believers, often seeking to justify their own fulfillment of the desires of their flesh (music, television, movies, etc.) deal with verses like this in abstract terms. Unfortunately, most evangelicals today will not be able to concretely apply this verse because so much of the world is already embedded in their hearts.
Consider what Charles Spurgeon wrote about worldly believers in his day: They plead that they may live like worldlings, and my sad answer to them, when they crave for this liberty, is, 'Do it if you dare. It may not do you much hurt, for you are so bad already. Your cravings show how rotten your hearts are. If you have a hungering after such dog's meat, go, dogs, and eat the garbage! Worldly amusements are fit food for mere pretenders and hypocrites. If you were God's children, you would loathe the very thought of the world's evil joys, and your question would not be, 'How far may we be like the world?' but your one cry would be, 'How far can we get away from the world? How much can we come out from it?' Your temptation would be rather to become sternly severe, and ultra-Puritanical in your separation from sin, in such a time as this, than to ask, 'How can I make myself like other men, and act as they do?'" (The Soul-Winner, 1895, p.278)
They did not destroy [disobeyed] the nations, concerning whom the Lord commanded them: but were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. (Psalm 106:34-36)
The progression into idolatry begins with unholy mingling with the ungodly. This ought not to be confused with mingling with them for the express purpose (that's right: express, not ancillary!) of proclaiming the Gospel to them, and teaching them the Scriptures and the way of salvation. The progression here is of mingling with them, and learning of their works. Entertainment that teaches the morals and philosophies of the world has no place in the hearts or lives of the disciples of Jesus Christ. Where does your entertainment fit into that analysis?
This applies to a subset of the musical entertainment admitted into the lives of believers today, and bears brief mention here. Most churches have adopted the pop-rock music of the world (please do your research before sending emails about the "piano as a barroom instrument" or "Luther used a barroom tune for A Mighty Fortress" myths) and have declared (contrary to the actual introducers of that music) that music is neutral, and that the profane music and worship of the world can be made pure somehow before a holy God. Only the CCM crowd presents the "music is neutral" argument. Those from whom they receive their musical inspiration certainly do not believe that.
Music is not neutral. In 1 Samuel 16:15-23, David's skilful playing of the harp calmed Saul and caused the evil spirit to depart. Much more could be said about the required solemnity of worship in the Lord's assemblies, as well as the Biblical aim of worship, both of which are set aside in the contemporary worship movement.
The principle of Biblical separation from the world is not coincidentally denied and rejected every major artist within the so-called contemporary Christian music industry. The tenets of I John 2:15-16, James 4:4, II Corinthians 6:14-18, and many other passages of Scripture are virtually ignored in order to justify the acceptance of this kind of music and its corresponding philosophy of worship. Obviously, this only scratches the surface of this issue, and no amount of Scripture will convince those intent on pursuing the desires of their own flesh and a love of the world, but he that hath an ear to hear, let him hear.
Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. (Proverbs 4:14-15)
The path of Biblical separation means not even seeking to wander close to the philosophies, methods, and practices -- the paths -- of the world, when it comes to the use of our time. Are we building a bridge to the pursuits and entertainment of the world? Better to exercise caution, than to build a bridge over which most will inevitably cross.
Does it appeal to the flesh?
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection [translated “vile affections” - Rom. 1:26], evil concupiscence [excessive lusts], and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: in the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath [violent anger], malice [ill will], blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. (Colossians 3:5-8)
Set your affections on things above. This passage fits well with Paul's exhortation to the Philippians (Phil. 4:8) tothink onthings that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. What could there be more honest, noble, true, pure, lovely, virtuous, of good report, and prasieworthy than the Scriptures themselves? What is more conducive to thoughts of the flesh (as mentioned above) than the movie, television, music, and video game industry of today? Will placing these things (whether in video, audio, or print form) before your eyes contribute to pure and lofty thoughts about the Almighty and things above?
Am I partaking of evil by being entertained by it?
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. . . . And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. (Ephesians 5:6-7, 11-12)
Even the passive listening, watching, or speaking (in a non-reproving way) of the wickedness in our society is called fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Rather than skimming over the preceding verses, pay attention to the prohibition of the unfruitful works, not just the unfruitful workers of darkness.
Does It Keep Me From Bible Study & Prayer?
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
There is a two-fold consideration to this question. First, does the entertainment feed and direct my mind and heart away from prayer and the diligent study (not just reading!) of the Bible? In other words, does it quench my appetite for God's Word and prayer, the two things most essential to my personal sanctification?
The second aspect, seen in the verse below, relates to the time eaten up with my pursuits of entertainment. Is the involvement with it such that there is little or no time left for prayer and the study of God's Word?
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. (Joshua 1:8)
Reading a chapter of Scripture a day is a good start, but do not rest satisfied in that. Joshua was exhorted to meditate in the Scriptures day and night. Lest you think that he had nothing else to concern him, remember that he was given this instruction prior to leading the nation of Israel into Canaan, embarking on a conquest that spanned a number of years. If your free time is such that you have time for entertainment, let it not be at the expense of diligent daily and nightly study of God's Word!
Will it keep me from being faithful (both in attendance and in service) to the Lord's assembly?
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (I Timothy 3:15)
In its context, this verse is Paul's explanation for the writing of this epistle on godliness to Timothy, overseeing the assembly at Ephesus. The importance of the New Testament church is also underscored with Paul's reminder to the elders of that church that Christ had purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). If the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, the house of God, and purchased with the blood of Christ, should your entertainment keep you from its meetings and service? (Hebrews 10:25) If your entertainment prevents you from attendance, forsake the entertainment. If your entertainment, by its nature or appearance, disqualifies you from service, you must, again, forsake the entertainment.
Does it cause me to see things I ought not to see, and hear things I ought not to hear?
Who shall dwell on high in the safety of the LORD?
He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; (Isaiah 33:15)
God is no less concerned with those who willingly set violence and evil before their eyes and ears than He is with those who actually commit the acts.
I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? (Job 31:1)
Job identified a connection between the things he saw and lustful thoughts of his mind. It is true that certain things come into our view without our intention, but how much wickedness, lust, and evil do we set before ourselves needlessly? For example, it is unlikely that an hour of television programming of the most educational sort today will go by without setting before your eyes covetousness, fornication, idolatry, and violence through even the most innocuous of commercials. Think also of the profane language and music that accompanies it. Can you, before God, profess yourself to be more righteous, or more spiritually-minded than Job?
I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me? (Psalm 101:3)
David's covenant mirrored Job's. Where Job's speech focused on one aspect of the lust of the eye, David's encompassed all wickedness entering through the so-called eye-gate.
What is it teaching me?
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another... (Colossians 3:16)
Does your entertainment help you to fulfil the command above to have the word of Christ dwelling in you richly? Paul concludes this verse by identifying this as the structure for our corporate worship in song. If the word of Christ is to dwell in us richly, or abundantly, in our singing, how much more so in every other aspect of our lives? Peter warned his immediate readership (and us, by extension) to give all diligence to add to our faith and to grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (II Peter 1:5-8). The idea of giving all diligence involves expending all effort, as if to waste no time. There is urgency to the command.
What kind of thoughts does it implant in my heart and mind?
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me. (Psalm 66:18)
Entertainment that causes me to regard iniquity in my heart will prevent my prayers from being heard. You might argue that this is "Old Testament," and that through Christ, all your prayers are heard. Be mindful of I Peter 3:7, in which husbands are warned that their prayers are hindered by not honouring their wives as the weaker vessel.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man. (Mark 7:21-23)
The Jews focused pointedly on purification related to food and washings, all of which were temporal and external. You might say they were obsessed with carnal purification. Jesus warns them that the wickedness lived out in a man's life arises from the wickedness of his own heart. Thus, there is a pointed (although perhaps not immediately apparent) warning here in relation to what we feed in our hearts. Our wicked world has done much to desensitize our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to shameful and abominable activities. To some extent, that cannot be avoided, since we live in the world. At the same time, we ought not to feed that desensitization through the entertainment we allow in our lives.
Will it cause others to stumble?
For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence [stumbling block]. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended [ensnared], or is made weak. (Romans 14:20-21)
Several things should be noted here. First, Paul speaks here of meat, drink, and the observance of certain days. This is not a blanket endorsement of all activities under the cloak of Christian liberty. To suggest that any activity is here rendered permissible is to ignore the immediate context of the chapter (related to foods that weaker brethren still stumbled over in relation to the abolition of ceremonial law) and the greater context of the apostle's writings (including condemnation of all sorts of immorality, with I Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21 as examples).
A second consideration to be made here is that Paul's use of things that fell within the realm of Christian liberty was not to flaunt his liberty, using it (as Peter writes in I Peter 1:16) as a "cloke of maliciousness." That is, where Paul knew he had liberty according to the Scriptures, in an area that caused someone else to sin or to stumble in their walk (not merely, to "be offended by it" in the way we understand "offence" today), Paul restricted that liberty. This is hardly the practice of contemporary Christianity today. It does not matter to most that their world-bridging worship, music, and culturally contextual practices lead many weaker brethren fully into the arms of the world and ungodliness. The liberty must be exercised at all costs. This is not charity, and it is not what the apostles wrote when they spoke of liberty.
A third consideration should be of the apostle's use of the phrase, "It is good neither..." Using a form of the word καλός (meaning good, as in beautiful, as opposed to useful), Paul clearly states that it is not a good or beautiful work to cause one's brother (or sister) in Christ to stumble by the exercise of my liberty. Certainly, there is more to be contemplated when we consider his exhortation in Titus 2 to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour with a zeal for doing good (καλῶν) works. To insist upon my liberty at the expense of my brother's walk with God does not reflect a zeal for good works.
Wherefore if meat maketh my brother to offend, I will eat no meat while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend. (I Corinthians 8:13)
One cannot miss the emphatic point being made here about the exercising of our liberty, when the apostle purposes to not eat meat while the world remains, rather than to cause one brother to stumble. What about your entertainment? Are there grey areas (grey according to Scripture, not grey according to your rationalization of unjustifiable amusments) in your entertainment that need to go because they are leading others into sin?
Is it questionable?
And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)
Notice the concluding statement. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. At the end of all of your contemplation, if you still have doubts about certain things, it is proper to search things out further than to continue in doubtful activities.
We only have a few short years on this earth. The world recognizes this. Thus, their philosophy is to live life to the fullest now, since you only live once. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die (I Corinthians 15:32). In light of their denial of the resurrection, this philosophy is actually appropriate. However, the world is wrong. We will live again. There is a resurrection from the dead. Our lives ought to reflect that truth by living contrary to the world's philosophy, especially since we know better. Where does your entertainment stand when held up to the light of Scripture?
1 - Mid-to-late 20th-century translations change the wording here to make this a reference to the sin offering, rather than sin or guilt in general. Prior to the 20th century, this was not the case and the change here is suspect given that the same Hebrew word here (although frequently translated as sin offering in the context of Levitical worship) appears in Jer. 51:5 and is translated consistently in the same modern English translations as "guilt" or "wickedness," presumably because there is no way to force the word "sin offering" into the context! [Return]