September 22, 2017

How to Apply the Bible to Entertainment Choices Today

Brian Hand

FrontLine • January/February 2014

Entertainment is not our enemy, but our Enemy employs entertainment effectively.[1] Pretending, as some Christians do, that the Enemy is either incapable or unwilling to use entertainment to accomplish his agenda is naïve at best. It may amount to a spiritual dereliction of duty. But how can we navigate the treacherous waters of decision making in order to use entertainment wisely? After all, some Christians dismiss all entertainment as a “tool of the Devil” while others become complacent, permissive, and uncritical in their entertainment choices. Neither solution follows a Biblical pattern. God never intended for us to live any part of life on our own, so He gave us a proven moral compass—His Word.[2] So when we ask questions requiring discernment, our starting point should be a thorough knowledge of the Bible. And when we read we should be asking, “What does God want me to do?” rather than, “What do I like to do?”

Scripture rarely refers to recreation directly. This fact doesn’t mean that God has left us to our own devices—to make decisions without His guidance. In His wisdom, God gave us many timeless principles. This use of principles makes His Word readily applicable to “new” situations. These principles give us confident answers to the question: How can I apply the Bible to my entertainment choices today?

Positive Principles

Two basic facts drive our study. (1) Sometimes entertainment is morally valuable. When it is such, we may use it as long as we do so in a Biblical fashion. (2) Sometimes entertainment is morally destructive. When it is such, we must avoid it. Distinguishing between these two situations can be difficult at times, but in many cases the correct application of relevant Biblical principles is entirely clear. Numerous positive principles urge those of us who are believers to conduct our lives by the grace of God in a specific fashion.

All our conduct must pursue a Scripturally-informed conformity to Christ (Rom. 8:29). Merely claiming that we are “following Christ” in our entertainment choices is not sufficient. Though we can deceive our friends and even ourselves in this regard, we cannot deceive God. He knows whether or not our conduct really conforms to the image of His Son. And it is well worth considering the question: Is our chosen entertainment making us more like Christ or more like the world?

We must approve of moral beauty and excellence (Phil. 4:8). Entertainment that follows certain industry standards of “excellence” while depicting sordid and immoral themes falls short of God’s standard for His children. Before we engage in leisure activities, we could well ask: Is our entertainment beautiful and true in God’s eyes?

We must strive to live contentedly (Phil. 4:11). Some entertainments urge us to chafe at our present situations. In particular, advertisements engage us with humor or riveting content in order to stir up our desire to possess a certain product. This can generate an unhealthy, unholy discontentment with God’s provision for our lives. The desire to model one’s clothing, appearance, and possessions after pop-culture stars exhibits the same discontentment that is inconsistent with the life of faith. We should thoughtfully consider: Does our entertainment stir up discontentment, or does it produce genuine satisfaction?

With Paul, we cannot allow ourselves to be brought into bondage to anything on this earth (1 Cor. 6:12). Entertainment can produce this bondage. When we push aside family, ministry, and important labor in order to watch our favorite shows, we are demonstrating an enslavement of our heart to something in this world. Believers ought to probe: Are we devoted to entertainment? Does it enslave us?

We must retain Scripturally-focused priorities (Matt. 22:37–40). Pleasure is typically more alluring than work. It encourages us to abandon the hardship, toil, and conflict of our day in favor of ease. While rest is clearly a part of God’s plan for us, the failure to stay focused on Biblical priorities may cause us to swerve away from God’s will for our lives. The realization of this should cause us to consider: Does our entertainment help us focus on that which is meaningful in God’s eyes?

Finally, we need to be careful that our entertainment choices help us to edify others (Rom. 14:19). As convenient as insulating ourselves from other people may be, it is not God’s plan for us. He does not intend for Christians to live as islands unto ourselves. Ministry takes effort. Raising children, interacting with spouses, and meeting the needs of others takes time, energy, mental and spiritual exertion, and self-denial. Many forms of entertainment call out, “Please yourself,” and when they do, we have ample Biblical warrant for rejecting that call.

Recurring Warnings

As we read Scripture, we notice recurring warnings. God frequently urges His people to avoid destructive behaviors. While no one enjoys warnings, they are another demonstration of God’s gracious leading of His people. Serious consequences often follow the failure to identify and avoid the threats of this world. When entertainment is morally destructive, we must avoid it. But how will we recognize it as destructive? The Bible points toward several important cues.

If our entertainment tends toward addiction or excess (1 Pet. 4:3, 4), it becomes a threat to spiritual life. Unfortunately, addiction is very hard for the addict to recognize and admit. Only a regular, careful examination of our lives against the standards of Scripture will expose entertainment addictions. These addictions may appear when we devote significant time, energy, money, and life focus toward entertainment. Addiction is evidence of worship. For instance, when the teen becomes angry at his parents’ rules concerning music, television, and video games, he proves his worship of his entertainment. When a father pushes his children aside in order to watch yet another Saturday afternoon football game, he demonstrates an addiction to his game.

Entertainment should not be a means of escape that helps us retreat from reality when life becomes too hard, too stressful, or too painful. (Second Corinthians 4:2 is rather severely distorted if we think that entertainment ought to be our comfort in times of distress.) God does not intend for His people to find their solace in the mind-numbing effects of entertainment but in Himself.

As we incline our hearts to wisdom (Prov. 2:2), we learn to evaluate our world, its opportunities and its threats discerningly. Used properly, some forms of entertainment bring rest and enjoyment of human creativity and skill. Used improperly, entertainment debases and ruins. Since God has the right to regulate all facets of our lives, we must apply the Bible to our entertainment choices today.


Dr. Brian R. Hand is a professor of New Testament Interpretation at Bob Jones University Seminary, where he has taught for eleven years, and the author of several books, including Upright Downtime: Making Wise Choices about Entertainment (2008) and The Climax of Biblical Prophecy: A Guide to Interpreting the Book of Revelation (2012).

(Originally published in FrontLine • January/February 2014. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

  1. For a detailed Biblical investigation of entertainment see the author’s book, Upright Downtime: Making Wise Choices about Entertainment (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 2008). []
  2. I assume that most readers of this article are Christians who understand that the goodness and power of God enable all spiritual life, growth, and health. We do not make wise choices apart from the grace of God, but through the grace of God. His Word is clear evidence of that grace, since it calls us from our sin and helps us understand how to imitate our Father’s character. []

Comments

  1. Adam Blumer says:

    Excellent! Thank you.

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