When Play Does Not Pay
CONTRARY to the thinking of some, the Bible does not condemn having a good time. As his first miracle, Jesus contributed to the merriment of a wedding feast by replenishing the depleted supply of wine. (John 2:1-11) That Jesus was often present at festive occasions is evident from the fact that his opposers falsely accused him of drunkenness and gluttony.—Matt. 11:19.
The Scriptures encourage putting forth effort to enjoy life. “I myself commended rejoicing,” states a wise Bible writer, “because mankind have nothing better under the sun than to eat and drink and rejoice, and that it should accompany them in their hard work for the days of their life, which the true God has given them under the sun.”—Eccl. 8:15.
But what if the pursuit of leisure and pleasure activities become excessive? What if pleasure becomes the principal pursuit in a person’s life? In such cases play does not pay hoped-for dividends of rest, refreshment and enjoyment. Rather, harm may result both to oneself and to others.
Harm to Oneself
Many spend leisure hours in the excessive drinking of alcohol. The Bible’s book of Proverbs contains a graphic description of the harm that comes from this:
“Show me someone who drinks too much, who has to try out fancy drinks, and I will show you someone miserable and sorry for himself, always causing trouble and always complaining. His eyes are bloodshot, and he has bruises that could have been avoided. Don’t let wine tempt you, even though it is rich red, and it sparkles in the cup, and it goes down smoothly. The next morning you will feel as if you had been bitten by a poisonous snake. Weird sights will appear before your eyes, and you will not be able to think or speak clearly. You will feel as if you were out on the ocean, seasick, swinging high up in the rigging of a tossing ship. ‘I must have been hit,’ you will say; ‘I must have been beaten up, but I don’t remember it. Why can’t I wake up? I need another drink.’”—Prov. 23:29-35, Today’s English Version.
However, the harmful effects of alcohol abuse are only one area of personal injuries that come from too much emphasis on pleasure. Jon Nordheimer reports in the New York Times: “Leisure time and the spreading affluence of the middle class have swelled the number of Americans seeking psychic renewal, exercise or just plain thrills by exposing themselves to some degree of danger under the guise of recreation.”
The same reporter explains that “statisticians for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company calculate that approximately 10,000 Americans die each year as a result of some avocational planned risk taken for fun or adventure. And the figure is growing.”
They “Crack Up on Their Vacations”
Leisure time may lead to psychological problems too. An item in Parade magazine (June 11, 1978) begins: “Why is it that many people crack up on their vacations? What is it about vacation-time that triggers psychological upsets? Dr. Heinz Brokop of the Innsbruck (Austria) Clinic blames the disorders on the loneliness of many vacationers, the problems of adjusting to a new environment, boredom, and the letdown following the period of vacation preparation. ‘We have more than 2-1/2 million vacationers from all parts of the world,’ he explains, ‘who visit Austria each year, ostensibly for rest and relaxation. Yet I am kept busy by so many of them who get anything but.’”
It is clear that simply having available free time does not result in happiness. Moreover, many of the ways that people use their leisure hours produce both physical and mental disorders. Sadly, adverse effects from leisure activities frequently are not limited to individuals hurting themselves.
Consequences to Others
What you do with leisure time affects others. As an example, consider the results of tourism in many places. Since tourists require hotels, swimming pools, campsites and roads to gain access to them, frequently the ecology and economy of a particular area suffer. Writer Guy Mountfort explains:
“Biologically valuable swampland is drained, streams are diverted, irregular contours neatly leveled, and natural vegetation destroyed or replaced by more decorative imported species. Soon the site looks precisely like any other man-made resort—modern, functionally efficient, artificially gay, with neither charm nor soul. Although some local employment is generated, transient specialist labor is usually imported and much of the profit goes either to foreign investors or to other regions of the country.”
Many vacationers think nothing of defacing natural scenery. According to Mountfort, in the Galápagos islands “hundreds of inscriptions, some of them in letters a foot high, have completely disfigured many rocks and cliffs.” Add to this the ill effects from careless pollution of air and water, driving under the influence of intoxicants, and other evidences of negligence by pleasure-seekers, and the result is truly lamentable.
How can people avoid going to harmful extremes in pleasure-seeking? The next article will provide some helpful guidelines.