Many people today spend a great deal of time on social media, video games, and television, so it’s no wonder that someone submitted a question about how Christians should manage the time they give to entertainment. Some Christians have a very open and permissive view of entertainment. They view it as a gift of God to be enjoyed. Others have a very negative view of entertainment, and they see it as a distraction from sober and holy living. In truth, both positions have a point and both are shortsighted. Let’s consider what the Bible has to say about the Christian’s relationship to entertainment.
1. Time spent in entertainment is a matter of Christian liberty and wisdom.
The Bible says, “Where there is no law, there is no transgression” (Rom 4:15; cf. Rom 3:20; 5:13). And God’s law does not forbid entertainment as long as the entertainment itself is not sinful (unlawful). You can’t be holier than the law of God (1 Jn 3:4). God’s law is a sufficient standard of righteousness (Ps 119:1). That means our entertainment choices are a matter of Christian liberty, and it’s wrong to say that Christians should never participate in entertainment.
On the other hand, our Christian liberties should always be guided by biblical wisdom. God gives us liberty so we can decide how best to use our lives for His glory without being coerced by the doctrines and commandments of men. Thus we should always ask ourselves whether our entertainment is wise. One of the best books I’ve read about smartphones is 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. Christians need to be careful and be wise about their use of their phones, but that’s a slightly different topic for another post.
2. Entertainment must never enslave you or distract you from your duties.
While entertainment is a liberty, Scripture warns us “”All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything” (1 Cor 6:12). People who are enslaved by their entertainment have an inordinate desire for it. They love their entertainment more than God.
But how do you know whether you love your entertainment more than God? Ask whether it’s leading you to break God’s law.
The seventh commandment requires you to be a faithful spouse. Does your entertainment lead you to neglect your duties to love, serve, and honor your spouse?
The fifth commandment requires you to be a faithful parent. Does your entertainment lead you to neglect your duties to train up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord?
The fourth commandment requires you to work for six days in your vocations and to rest on Sunday, fellowshipping with God’s people. Is your entertainment leading you to neglect your work or serving your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you using your time as God has commanded you? Ephesians 5:15-16 warns us to use our time wisely. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.”
In light of our biblical duties to others, it seems wise to prioritize forms of entertainment that can be done with people who are already part of our lives. Enjoying entertainment with family or brothers and sisters who go to our church would be a good thing. This of course isn’t an absolute prohibition against being entertained alone or with people you don’t encounter in everyday life.
Finally, in the first commandment, God says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:3). Psalm 84:10 says, “A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” Do you find yourself constantly thinking about social media, movies, or video games? And are you neglecting the thought of God? Are you faithfully spending time in His Word and in prayer or are you neglecting communion with Him for the sake of entertainment? Are you looking to entertainment to satisfy your soul and give you rest that only God Himself can give you?
If any of these things are true of you, then entertainment has started to enslave you and you need to repent of idolatry because of Christ’s love for you.
3. Time spent in entertainment can be profitable for your soul.
Some worry about whether there can ever be any redeeming value in entertainment, but there certainly can be. Paul said that God “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17). Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine.”
Ecclesiastes 11:9 says, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” In other words, it is good to rejoice in the gifts God gives, but God will judge our deeds, which means we must not sin in our merry making.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 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.”
There is a place for entertainment and enjoying the world God has given us, but it must never be first place. It’s impossible to worship God and entertainment, but if your entertainment is lawful and done to the glory of God, then it pleases God, and can refresh you.
4. Let Christ and the gospel fuel your relationship to entertainment.
Sometimes people look to entertainment to do what only Christ can do. Only Jesus can become a spring of living water in your heart, welling up to eternal life. Entertainment will not clear your guilty conscience, though it might help you forget your sins for a while. Entertainment can’t fill you with lasting joy, though it can make you temporarily happy with diminishing returns.
Christ alone satisfies completely. He cancels the debt of sin. He freely gives a righteous status and honorable identity. He fills His people with His Spirit of joy, and He will never leave them or forsake them.
If entertainment has become a god to you, then repent of your sin and go to Jesus. He will forgive you and teach you a better way. But if you look to Christ and see Him as the giver of every good gift, then you can enjoy His world. Christ gives good gifts of entertainment, and He invites you to rejoice in them.
So how should you manage your time in relation to entertainment? Organize it under the good law of Christ. Refuse to allow entertainment to enslave you or crowd out other relationships or responsibilities. But also, give entertainment enough time so that you can gratefully enjoy the world Christ has created.