Work, Sure, But Entertainment?

Scripture tells us to do our work as for the Lord. Paul mentions this in his letter to the Ephesians, for example, when he says, “With good will, render service as to the Lord and not to men” (6:7). He says essentially the same thing to the Colossians. In this case, however, he elaborates a little:

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (3:22-24)

Some people might argue that Paul was speaking specifically to “slaves” and therefore the passage doesn’t apply to us today. There are several problems with that view.

First, “slaves” in Judea during the first century weren’t as we understand “slaves” today. These were people who committed themselves to service in order to pay a debt. Mosaic Law mandated that those under such obligation would be freed every seven years, whether they’d paid their debt or not. Hence, it’s foreseeable that some of these slaves were skating, biding their time until the seven years were up, and consequently not doing a good job at all for those they worked for.

Second, Scripture tells us that all Scripture is given for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Consequently, a passage addressed to someone else can still contain truth we can apply. For example, I learned a great deal about teaching from Scriptural instruction to leaders and to parents. The passages in Nehemiah and in Proverbs were addressed to people other than teachers, but that doesn’t mean God didn’t intend for teachers to learn from them too.

Thirdly, the last line says, “It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Since I as a believer do serve the Lord Christ, I have to think this passage actually is addressing me directly.

One way or another, then, this passage speaks to believers today, and we can conclude, then, that work is to be done for the Lord.

Earlier, though, Paul said he was praying for the Christians at Colossae, “that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (1:10).

The “in all respects” reminds me of another verses in chapter 3 — “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (3:17 – emphasis mine).

“In all respects” and “whatever you do” bring me to the issue of entertainment. Scripture seems quite clear about how we are to conduct ourselves in our work, but what about our leisure? Doesn’t our entertainment fall in the category of “whatever”?

I’ve thought about this for some time, and even wrote several posts on the subject at Speculative Faith (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4), but I haven’t been entirely satisfied with my position on the matter. I see in Scripture a clear statement that we are to work six days and rest one day.

I see in nature, with our physical requirements, that we are to sleep a third of our time. I also understand that in the same way our body needs exercise and food, our mind needs exercise and food. Hence, some “leisure” is simply a way of giving our minds what we need, and in a sedentary work environment, it may also be providing our body with the exercise it needs.

But where does “mindless” entertainment come into the picture? Over and over I hear, often based on a quote from J. R. R. Tolkien, that escape is a good and appropriate thing for us to do. We are prisoners escaping from what has held us, the analogy goes, not soldiers deserting in the midst of a battle.

But how do we know we aren’t deserting?

The prison escape seems to me to take the freed man home or at least some place better. Mindless entertainment seems to do neither. Home is where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God — a transcendent place of wonders too amazing for Paul to write down when he was transported there in a vision. It puts us in God’s presence, creates satisfaction, gives us our hope.

Does mindless entertainment accomplish any of these things? Does it take us to some place better? How could it if it is mindless? God didn’t make us mindless, and for us to live in a mindless way even for a few hours, seems to me to be a downgrade of circumstances, not an upgrade.

One last thought — what might be mindless for one person, may not be mindless for another. Take sports for example. I remember when I first learned that the linemen in football actually had a plan, that they were assigned differing blocking schemes based on the play that was called. Suddenly running backs plowing straight into a pile of hulking bodies didn’t see silly. The whole game took on greater purpose. Someone else can watch the same game I watch, however, and see nothing but men running around in a way that seems disorganized and unproductive. An entire game of this would seem mindless to such a person.

I have to think the reverse is also true — things others find challenging for whatever reason might indeed be mindless to me (like tinkering with the engine of a car! or watching golf! or NASCAR!! 😉 )

What I’m questioning, I guess, is entertainment that a person declares to be mindless, then engages in fully, for hours. How does that fit in with, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father”?

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Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 6:28 pm  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. The “slave” thing applies very well to Americans today if we understand that we are indeed slaves to the banks to which we owe great debts. We don’t work directly for the banks, but we must work toward paying these debts. If you live in a house, earned a degree, drive a car, use credit cards… and it’s not paid for- then you are a slave.

    Mindlessness sounds like a word to put-down activities you don’t understand. To me sports are mindless activities- a complete waste of time and money. But like you said, the person who understands what those over-paid fellas are doing out there… no, sorry. Sports are total mindlessness in my opinion and I really can’t see another perspective on it. If more men would pay half as much attention to God and Family as they do to their games, what a wonderful world this could be.

    But as a person who NEEDS mindless diversions, I have to say so here. My paying job is providing counseling services for abused children. When I am not working I need a good amount of personal time that I’m not expected to accomplish anything, when my mind can go other places to refresh. I get my Mindless time through playing Scrabble, and enjoying the fiction and blogs I read. Not to say that your blog doesn’t make me think, but it releases my mind rather than weighing heavy on it. To me that is good mindlessness. Is anything accomplished? Nothing of significance, but when I play I still know whose I am and try to play as honorably as I work. But it’s not time to accomplish anything in particular, just time spent to recover our resources to give our all to the Lord each new day in the activities that are productive.

    If football does for you what fiction does for me- then I am sorry to have put it down. I believe we need such things in our lives. As long as they are restorative, and not consuming to your life.

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