If fun is good, but not all fun is good, then we ought to choose our fun thoughtfully and wisely. Fun ought to be to our benefit, not a means of our destruction.
So how do we choose? Can we just choose what we like?
Likes are important. There’s no sense in seeking relaxation in things you don’t like; if this is about pleasure and rest, then that’s obvious.
But I’d suggest that “I like it!” is not a legitimate first criterion. Making your likes the primary criterion is idolatry; “I am the standard by which my world is measured.” My physicist friends tell me that nobody has enough mass to be the center of the universe. Sure, you should do something you like; but the fact that you like something is not in itself a basis for choosing it. There ought to be more significant reasons than that.
You won’t be surprised, I suppose, when I say that we need to base these choices—even choices about what we do for fun—on Scripture. Paul famously wrote,
Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1Co 10.31).
We ought to glorify God in the way we have fun.
How can we do that?
I think we can pull over into this question some principles Paul set forth in another context. The believers at Corinth were squabbling over whether they should do certain things—the most notorious was whether it’s OK to eat meat that had been offered to idols. I’ve written on that in another context, but I think we can legitimately apply it to this question.
Paul says that we have a lot of freedom in our choices of behavior; he even says, surprisingly, that “all things are lawful unto me” (1Co 6.12; 10.23). Now, obviously, in context he doesn’t mean that murder and mayhem are just fine. But he does grant broad latitude to Christians in choosing their own behaviors.
This surprising statement doesn’t appear in isolation, however; Paul attaches limitations to the list of “all things”:
- Not all things are expedient (KJV) / helpful (NKJV ESV) / profitable (NASB) / beneficial (CSB NIV) (1Co 6.12). We need to choose activities that help move us toward our goal—and the Christian’s goal is Christ-likeness (Ro 8.29). Stewardship of our rest can clearly do that. Activities that encourage love for our neighbor can do that. On the other hand, activities that isolate us from sympathy for others or that cater to our pridefulness clearly don’t—even if the activity itself is not sin.
- Some things threaten to control us (1Co 6.12). Anything that becomes life-dominating is wrong, even if it doesn’t have that effect on other people. I know someone whose marriage broke up because he spent too much time playing computer games. Does anybody really want his life to be radically changed for the worse—by a hobby? a diversion?
- Not all things edify (1Co 10.23). This could theoretically be speaking of edifying ourselves or edifying others, but in the context Paul is pretty clearly focusing on the latter. We need to consider whether our pastimes build up or tear down those around us. Literally any activity can cross this line if we get so wrapped up in it that we ignore or neglect those around us.
Since we’re talking about entertainment, let me engage in a little thought experiment about movies.
When I was a boy in broad evangelicalism, around 90% of conservative Christians thought you shouldn’t go to a move theater, because even watching a good movie amounted to supporting an ungodly industry. Now, 50 years later, the number has flipped; about 90% think it’s fine to go to a movie theater.
What’s changed in the meantime?
Well, most noticeably, the movies have gotten a lot more objectionable.
Now, I’m honestly not taking any position here on whether you ought to go to movies. But I can’t help noticing that our freedom has hardened our hearts. We aren’t troubled by the unbiblical things that used to trouble us.
We need to think more carefully about how we have fun.
May I suggest a resource for doing that? My colleague, Dr. Brian Hand, has written a booklet on this topic. It’s not long or expensive, and it’s worth a read.