How Much Entertainment Is Too Much?

We must be the most entertained generation in all of human history. We take entertainment as our inalienable right. If we work hard during the day, we assume we have earned a few hours of amusement at night. Actually, we can’t even make it through the day without at least a few distractions—a couple of web sites in the morning, some quick YouTube videos at lunch, sports radio on the drive home. The evening hours are for Netflix, of course, and for video games, coloring books, or the occasional movie. Weekends are for sports, for the cinema, for kicking back with a novel. The choices are endless and our commitment near-total.

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It is good for us to consider the place of entertainment in the Christian life. What is the purpose of entertainment? How much is enough? How much is too much?

It’s clear that we need times of rest and entertainment in order to thrive in this world. Life is difficult and we need opportunities to relax, to unwind, and to recharge. We will harm our bodies, minds, and souls if we only ever work. For that reason, the Bible doesn’t disparage entertainment. It doesn’t look with disapproval on downtime, on activities that are restful, relaxing, or blessedly distracting. It doesn’t ridicule hours in a day or weeks in a year that are purposefully committed to something other than life’s day to day responsibilities. Jesus himself freely relaxed with friends.

Yet the Bible also reminds us that we are accountable before God for every minute and every hour. We must redeem the short time given to us. We have responsibilities we must fulfill and duties we must perform. Our purpose in life is not entertainment. God’s mandate to Adam called for dominion not distraction. Jesus’s commission to his followers called for full-out commitment. We were made to work, not play.

Thus, we are to enjoy entertainment purposefully, as a means of achieving rest. We are to pursue the rest of entertainment to the degree we need it to achieve our higher purposes. We don’t work so we can rest, but rest so we can work. We have rested enough when it has prepared us to return our hands to the plow; we have rested too much when the plow has grown rusty or the field lies fallow. Our entertainment must always be restrained and purposeful, designed to return us to the field of our labor refreshed and renewed.

The Bible also reminds us that we are accountable for the forms our entertainment takes. It must only ever be pure and sinless. While we may take a rest from work, we must never take a rest from holiness. What we watch or read or play must further our walk, not hinder it. It must enhance our purity, not decrease it. It must spur on our love for God and man, not diminish it. We must prefer not to be entertained at all than to be entertained like unbelievers. Our entertainment must always be true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. It must always be enjoyed with a pure conscience and to promote a conscience that is purer still.

Entertainment is a good gift of God, designed to refresh us from the long labor gone by and to renew us for the long labor ahead. As Christians we do well to pursue it. We do well to create new forms of it, to invite others to participate in it with us. But always we must remember what J.R. Miller says so well: “Amusement is not an end, but a means. It is not life’s object, but a help along the way. It is not the goal, but the cool bower, or the bubbling spring on the stiff, steep mountain-side.”