You may find this surprising, but the word “entertainment” appears in the Bible exactly 0 times. Crazy, right? There is also a conspicuous absence of the words “movie”, “television”, “comic book”, “video game” and “internet” which is just wild to me. Like, you know my boy Peter spent His evenings binge-watching the Great British Baking Show. So why wouldn’t he tell us about it? I guess he probably wanted to avoid spoilers. What a swell guy.
As I was doing some real-life research, I found a few different perspectives on what the Bible actually says which is only the second most surprising thing I’ve found while preparing this blog post. Let me dump all of the scripture references that I have found that can possibly be relevant so you can see how much work I’ve actually done:
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; Colossians 3:2; Titus 2:6-8; Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 5:15-16; 1 Timothy 4:4-5; Corinthians 10:31; 1 John 2:15-16; Romans 12:2; Matthew 6:21; Matthew 25:14-30
So that’s kind of a lot right? Don’t worry though, I read them all (because I am basically Bible Man’s younger, less Willie Ames-y protégée).
I think it all boils down to three tests:
- If it is in excess, cut it out
- If it is an escape, cut it out
- If it has to be justified, cut it out
While that may be slightly simpler, it still isn’t cut and dried. I think the biggest, most important thing to remember is from 1 Corinthians 6:12 is
12 “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.
Contrary to what the Assassins might say, everything is lawful, (or permissible in some translations) but not everything is beneficial. So like, sure, you can actually do anything. That’s your prerogative. But if you’re striving to follow Christ, there are definitely some things that are not beneficial. I don’t believe that this means we have to walk around like Gregorian monks, chanting choruses wearing sackcloth and ash (and hitting yourself in the face, Monty Python style). I genuinely think that God is just not that boring. The joy of the Lord is our strength, remember? Entertainment can be joy-bringing for sure. I love entertainment, as you may have gathered from my nerdiness.
I also love Christ though, and I want to be sure that everything I do I’m doing it in the name of the Lord (Colossians 3:17). Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not about to give you a definitive list of Jesus would probably watch and Jesus would hecka judge you for watching (or playing or reading) because I genuinely believe that different Christians might have different levels of what’s beneficial. but the three tests I’m about to touch on are about as universal as it gets.
1. If it is in excess, cut it out
In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul tells us to be very careful how we live and make the most of every opportunity. This is directly referring to the concept of stewardship. If you give your kid $100 bucks (I’m your kid now too, thanks), and your kid is like, “Oh cool I guess” and then throws it directly into the trash, that kid is a very bad steward of their resources. My guess is that this child is also quite unlikable and don’t let your kids be like that.
Time is the same for us. Every single day is a gift, as cheesy as that might be, and we should use the gift as wisely as we can. If we are spending more time on Entertainment than on our disciplines, then we are bad stewards. We are wasting our time. Entertainment should be the last thing we schedule in our day, and it shouldn’t be the thing we look forward to the most. If you tally up the minutes you spend doing stuff, and Entertainment comes out on top? Oops, you done messed up.
2. If it an escape, cut it out
If you watch tv or movies or play games or read books so you can shut out the world, that may be an issue. This isn’t to say that fiction is bad, but if you regularly spend time with your mind in another place, you’re ignoring your responsibilities. You can’t just pretend that life doesn’t exist, because we are living this life with a purpose.
This becomes especially important when we have families – you know how difficult it can be to put the phone down or set aside time to spend with your loved ones. Don’t ever let your entertainment take priority over your relationships.
3. If it has to be justified, cut it out
This is where we really get into the nitty-gritty. I like a lot of things that don’t really fall into the “beneficial” category of entertainment. God is specifically challenging me about a few of them, so I went through and wrote down every single show, game, podcast, and book I’ve read lately.
Here’s a couple I’m gonna throw out:
Archer – a hilarious adult cartoon that is honestly so filthy. I have no excuses for this one. Watching it was a sin and I can’t do it anymore.
Behind the Bstrds – a podcast about dictators and generally evil guys, historically accurate and weird trivia information. They cuss too much and talk about inappropriate things. I gotta cut it out.
Here’s some stuff I’m gonna keep:
Don’t Starve – a wholesome game. Read my review here.
Stuff You Should Know – a cool, family-friendly podcast about everything from sea monkeys to P.T. Barnum
Parks and Recreation – not a perfect show, but overall pretty pure and positive. It’s so good natured and I love it.
The bottom line for me is that if I have a hard time imagining giving it up, I should probably do just that. I feel this way about Bojack Horseman. I love love love Bojack Horseman. It’s incredibly clever and also full of heart, but ultimately it’s very sad. It’s about the sad lives of unfulfilled people and it puts me into sort of a dark place. (Not to mention that it’s inappropriate, something many of us are all too ready to justify)
Please hear me: my standards might not be your standards.
You might clutch your pearls at some of my suggestions. That’s okay. I don’t need you to be on the same page with exactly what I know for myself. You might come up with different things that are okay for you and your family. It’s no sweat off my brow. I do wholeheartedly believe this though: my three tests are sound and Biblically based. I’ve always been a believer in the idea that if you’re trying to figure out where the line is, your heart is in the wrong place.
You probably already know what’s beneficial and what’s not – you just have to listen to what God is actually saying about it.
That is all.