Written by Ansy Wong
Ansy grew up in the UK, spent a chunk of her adulthood in Taiwan serving as an OMF Partner: a tentmaker teacher and church-planter, only to be called back by God to the UK to serve the next generation of British-born Chinese. She joined Birmingham Chinese Evangelical Church, UK in 2012 and currently serves as a Minister-in-Training, while studying theology at ForMission Bible College.
I’m bored. I have nothing to do. There’s nothing good to watch, and I’m done gorging on all the Game of Thrones episodes. There’s not a lot happening on my Facebook newsfeed; it’s the same whenever I scroll through it. My friends are too busy, too tired, or too broke to come out and play.
It appears to me that every day, we have this great desire or longing to be entertained. The first thing we do when we wake up is to look at our phones. We’re always checking the notifications and messages on our Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter . . . (you name it!). We want to be in the know of things. We want to look at things. We want to click on things. We want to be entertained.
Is it wrong to embrace entertainment? Am I wrong for wanting to keep seeking something epic, to be swooned by some awesome Instagram-worthy-photo? Is it wrong to want to play this game and try out the new secret tactic that I researched and found on YouTube?
Well, entertainment itself isn’t a sin. Since the beginning, God created us to have emotions and senses. He gave us the ability to feel, touch, taste, hear and smell. We’ve even been told to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
Entertainment is a tool that can lead us to a sense of awe and wonder. It can bring enjoyment and amusement to others and ourselves, and can even turn a sad frown upside down. We weren’t made to be robots and work day in, day out. God rested on the seventh day, and we’re meant to rest and relax too.
Going on vacation can be an incredible blessing where we can just be still, and let our bodies regenerate and recover from the stresses and strains of life. Playing sports or games can be a great way to exercise our bodies physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can bring out our competitive or playful side, or help develop our brains to be better at strategy and planning. And it’s definitely a great way to take care of the bodies God has given us, so we can serve Him better.
Attending concerts, performances, or even just watching movies opens our eyes to the intricacies of creativity, reminding us that our God is an incredible Creator who designed and created us with minds of creativity too. That complex plot twist or musical crescendo building up to that grand finale can lead us to really appreciate music and art, but ultimately, appreciate and worship our Creator God.
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16).
We were created with senses, to experience things. And we were created through Him and for Him, to worship Him, and to bring Him glory.
Wrong if it becomes an end in itself
But problems arise when we make entertainment an end in itself and indulge excessively without restraint. We’ve heard this phrase, “Everything in moderation.” Parents say it. Teachers say it. Dieticians say it. Doctors say it. You can’t have too much of something. Too much gaming leads to anti-social behavior. Too much sugar leads to diabetes. Too much Netflix makes you dumb.
“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything’” (1 Corinthians 6:12).
But here, we read that it’s not just about moderation, it’s about discernment. Sure, we have freedom, but not everything is good for us. And secondly, it would be unwise to be enslaved to and mastered by things. That speaks of addiction.
Wrong if it’s meant to please ourselves
Popular culture tells us to “eat, drink and be merry” but the Bible tells us to be counter-cultural. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
I mean who doesn’t enjoy a great storyline of a film? But it’s wrong when we start using the fact that we’ve seen the latest movie as bragging rights. It’s a sin if we want to have that epic burger to take a photo and gain an electronic applause of likes, because—Look at me, see how cool I am? That’s pride. That’s feeding our egos. And ego, from what a pastor once preached when I was a youth, can be spelt out as “edging God out”. So it’s wrong when the object or us gets the glory, and not God.
The Bible tells us to do all things for the glory of God. Is what I’m eating, drinking and watching pleasing and honoring to God? Or does it serve to please my selfish desires?
Wrong if it becomes an idol
Anything that replaces God is an idol. Even our phone can become an idol. Our obsession with Marvel films can become an idol—especially if we’re putting those things above our time with God.
Here’s how I see it: If we put social media, our phone, Netflix, our obsession with “likes”, or anything above our relationship with God, we’ve made ourselves our very own idol.
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:3-5).
It’s not a sin to enjoy things. God created everything, and saw that it was good. And we can see that things are good too. But when we worship created things rather than the Creator, that’s when we’ve got it all wrong. Look at what happened to sex. Sex, reserved for marriage, as an expression of love and act of intimacy between husband and wife, is now set on a pedestal and treated as a must-have.
The trouble is, the more we seek entertainment (and not God), the more it becomes an idol and the more we want it. But we’ll never be truly satisfied. We’ll always be feeding that dark hole, wanting more and more. We’ll constantly want something new. We want to be wowed because that previous toy is no longer entertaining us.
So how can I glorify God through entertainment?
- Realign our awe and wonder back to God, remembering that God is the one who created these things.
- Turn to God and worship Him, because at the end of the day only God can truly satisfy us.
- Seek godly pursuits that glorify God. Ask: Is this bringing me glory or giving God the glory? Is this helping me draw closer to God and benefiting my spiritual life? Or is it causing me to sin or causing a brother to stumble?
- Lastly, ask: am I able to share this with others and lead them to worship God?
And every so often, it’s a good idea to fast from entertainment. Stop yearning for earthly pleasure, and strive to yearn for God. Spend time with Him, desire to be wowed by God, and give God the full praise, glory, and credit due. Thank Him for His mercies and blessings. Put down the phone, and pick up His Word. Let His words thrill you instead. The more you read it, the more you’ll want it. And no, the novelty of His Word will never wear off.