You might be surprised at the number of times the Bible touches on the subject of entertainment. On the positive side, Jesus went to parties and made time to get away from the grind of ministry with His disciples. Paul said that God “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17), and he obviously knew something about poetry (Acts 17:28), sports (1 Corinthians 9:24-26), and the theater (1 Corinthians 4:9). What’s more, the end of history is pictured as a banquet for God’s people in Revelation. Negatively, King Herod’s attempt to entertain his guests led to John the Baptist’s execution (Matthew 14:6-12), and the Persian King Ahasuerus’ wild party ended with what amounted to a divorce (Esther 1:1-22). How do we sort through these biblical references? Here are several principles to help you determine Scripture’s teaching on entertainment and amusement.
1. Keep entertainment in perspective. The deepest, most abiding joy comes from fellowship with God, not a fleeting source of amusement. The psalmist longed for God’s presence and said to Him, “A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10). The amount of entertainment available in the western world is overwhelming. Yet people still abuse substances, lead deeply troubled lives, and even commit suicide. This is evidence that no amount of entertainment can bring ultimate fulfillment. Such satisfaction can only be achieved by walking daily with Jesus as Lord and Savior.
2. Seek levity and amusement in the proper context. The fact that entertainment is not our ultimate source of satisfaction does not mean it’s evil. On the contrary, Scripture suggests that God’s people should pursue wholesome entertainment. For instance, Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” Ecclesiastes urges, “Eat your bread in joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9).
3. Don’t use entertainment to escape from reality. The author of Ecclesiastes mentions work and feasting in the same verse: “Everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in his toil—this is God’s gift to man” (3:13). The obvious suggestion is that God’s people must not pursue sources of amusement at the expense of tending to life’s responsibilities such as work and family. When King David sought relaxation at the expense of meeting his obligations, the results were catastrophic (2 Samuel 11:1-27). The Lord wants us to enjoy His gifts while we meet our obligations, not in lieu of meeting our obligations.
4. Satisfying sinful desires is not a valid source of entertainment. This ought to go without saying. Unfortunately it doesn’t, as many view excursions into drunkenness, sexual titillation, or crass humor as “harmless fun.” Along with Herod and Ahasuerus, Babylon’s King Belshazzar exemplifies the folly of entertaining oneself by satisfying sinful cravings. The very night that he indulged in drunken reveling, the Medes killed him and overthrew his kingdom (Daniel 5:31).
5. Allow interruptions to your entertainment. Though Jesus enjoyed a wedding (John 2:1-12), a banquet (Matthew 9:10), and a getaway to the lake (Matthew 14:13), He was often willing to be interrupted to meet people’s needs. It was a matter of priorities. In the same way, our entertainment is never so important that it cannot be stopped to help a friend in need or share the gospel with a person who needs Jesus.
The Bible’s advocacy of godly entertainment has played a role in the development of sports, literature, art, music and more among Judeo-Christian cultures. So the next time opportunity presents itself to enjoy a wholesome form of entertainment, think about this heritage and thank God for His good gifts.