Social Entertainment—Enjoy the Benefits, Avoid the Snares
“There is nothing better than that [a man] should eat and indeed drink and cause his soul to see good because of his hard work.”—ECCLESIASTES 2:24.
1. In what ways does God’s guidance help his people regarding entertainment?
JEHOVAH’S guidance brings his servants many advantages. We can see this in the realm of entertainment. His direction helps Christians to avoid extremes at either end of the spectrum. Some religionists, who insist on severity in dress and conduct, view almost any pleasure as sinful. On the other hand, most people pursue pleasures even if such conflict with Jehovah’s laws and principles.—Romans 1:24-27; 13:13, 14; Ephesians 4:17-19.
2. What gave early indication of God’s view of entertainment?
2 What, though, about God’s people? Many who begin studying the Bible are surprised to learn that God actually created humans with the capacity to enjoy life. He gave our first parents work to do—but not the depressing drudgery that has marked the lives of most imperfect humans. (Genesis 1:28-30) Think of the numerous wholesome ways in which all who live in an earthly paradise might find enjoyment. Imagine their joy in watching wild animals that would pose no threat and a variety of domestic ones that could be part of daily life! And what meals they would have from “every tree desirable to one’s sight and good for food”!—Genesis 2:9; Ecclesiastes 2:24.
3-5. (a) What purpose should entertainment serve? (b) Why can we be sure that God did not discourage the Israelites from finding enjoyment?
3 Those activities can, in fact, be viewed as entertainment, the purpose of which in Paradise would be the same as now: to refresh and to rejuvenate one’s vitality for further productive activities (work). When entertainment accomplishes this, it is beneficial. Does that mean that true worshipers can make a place in their life for entertainment even if not yet living in Paradise? Yes. Insight on the Scriptures says about entertainment among Jehovah’s ancient people:
4 “The amusements and diversion of the Israelites are not prominently portrayed in the Bible record. Nevertheless, it shows them to be viewed as both proper and desirable when in harmony with the religious principles of the nation. The principal forms of recreation were the playing of musical instruments, singing, dancing, conversation, as well as some games. The propounding of riddles and difficult questions was much esteemed.—Jg 14:12.”—Volume 1, page 102.
5 When David returned in victory, Hebrew women used lutes and tambourines while celebrating (Hebrew, sa·chaqʹ). (1 Samuel 18:6, 7) The Hebrew word basically means “laugh,” and some versions speak of “merrymaking women.” (Byington, Rotherham, The New English Bible) While the Ark was being moved, “David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before Jehovah with all sorts of instruments.” Michal, David’s wife, had an unbalanced view, for she objected to David’s share in the entertaining activities. (2 Samuel 6:5, 14-20) God foretold that the returning exiles from Babylon would share in similar joyful activities.—Jeremiah 30:18, 19; 31:4; compare Psalm 126:2.
6. How do the Christian Greek Scriptures help us in our view of entertainment?
6 We too should seek to be balanced about entertainment. Do we appreciate, for instance, that Jesus was not an ascetic? He took time for refreshing meals, such as the “big reception feast” that Levi spread. And when self-righteous ones criticized him for eating and drinking, Jesus rejected their views and ways. (Luke 5:29-31; 7:33-36) Recall, too, that he both attended a wedding and contributed to the festivities. (John 2:1-10) Jesus’ half brother Jude mentions that Christians had “love feasts,” apparently meals where needy ones could enjoy food and pleasant, relaxed fellowship.—Jude 12.
Social Entertainment in Its Time and Place
7. How does God’s Word encourage balance respecting entertainment?
7 Ecclesiastes 10:19 speaks favorably of ‘bread for the laughter of workers and wine that makes life rejoice.’ That does not sound as if entertainment were inherently wrong or bad, does it? Yet, the same book says: “For everything there is an appointed time, . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to wail and a time to skip about.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4) Yes, while not condemning appropriate entertainment, the Bible offers us cautions. These include counsel to keep social entertainment in its place as to time and quantity. It also warns us about pitfalls that have been all too common with large social gatherings.—2 Timothy 3:4.
8, 9. Why should the time in which we live and our God-given assignment have a bearing on entertainment?
8 We noted that Jews returning from Babylon—who had much hard work to do—would share in joyful relaxation. Yet, Jeremiah earlier said that he would not ‘sit down in the intimate group of those playing jokes nor begin exulting.’ (Jeremiah 15:17) He was divinely assigned to deliver a message of impending punishment, so it was not the appointed time for him to be making merry.
9 Christians today are assigned to proclaim God’s message of hope as well as to pronounce his judgments against Satan’s wicked system. (Isaiah 61:1-3; Acts 17:30, 31) It should thus be evident that we ought not to allow entertainment to become prominent in our lives. We can illustrate the point with a pinch of salt or a special seasoning that enhances the flavor of food. Would you pour on the flavoring in such large amounts that it even overpowers the food? No, indeed. In line with Jesus’ words at John 4:34 and Matthew 6:33, our prime concern—our very food—should be the doing of God’s will. So recreation becomes like seasoning. It should refresh and enhance, not exhaust or overwhelm.
10. Why should all of us reexamine our entertainment as to time?
10 Stop and consider, though: Would not most people say that the time and attention they give to entertainment is moderate? If they felt otherwise, they would have made an adjustment. Does this not suggest that each of us should pause and seriously, frankly, analyze what place entertainment actually holds in our life? Might it stealthily have become rather prominent? For example, do we automatically turn on the TV whenever we return home? Have we formed a pattern of blocking out a large chunk of time for entertainment each week, such as every Friday night or Saturday night? Would we feel let down if that time arrived and we were at home with no recreation planned? Two additional questions: On the day after a gathering, do we find that we stayed out so late or traveled so far that we are exhausted, maybe too drained to share in the Christian ministry or to give our employer a good day’s work? If our entertainment occasionally, or often, has that effect, is it really proper and balanced fun?—Compare Proverbs 26:17-19.
11. Why is a review of the nature of our entertainment fitting?
11 It may also be good for us to review, too, the nature of our entertainment. Our being servants of God is no guarantee that our entertainment is fitting. Consider what the apostle Peter penned to anointed Christians: “The time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries.” (1 Peter 4:3) He was not wagging his finger, as it were, accusing his brothers of copying what those in the world were doing. Yet, alertness is vital for Christians (then and now) because one can easily fall prey to harmful entertainment.—1 Peter 1:2; 2:1; 4:7; 2 Peter 2:13.
Be Alert to Snares
12. First Peter 4:3 highlights what sort of snare?
12 To what type of snare ought we be alert? Well, Peter mentioned “excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches.” A German commentator explained that the Greek words used “chiefly applied to social drinking at the banquet.” A Swiss professor wrote that those practices were common back then: “The description must pertain to organized gatherings or even regular clubs in which the shameful activities described were carried on.”
13. How has the use of alcohol at gatherings been a snare? (Isaiah 5:11, 12)
13 Having alcoholic beverages at large social gatherings has ensnared many. It is not as if the Bible forbids moderate use of such beverages, for it does not. As an evidence of this, Jesus made wine at a wedding feast in Cana. There must have been no overdrinking, for Jesus would uphold God’s counsel to avoid being among heavy drinkers. (Proverbs 23:20, 21) But consider this detail: The director of that feast said that at other feasts good wine was served first ‘and when people were intoxicated, the inferior wine’ was served. (John 2:10) So it was common for Jews to get drunk at weddings where abundant wine was available for all.
14. In what ways might Christian hosts cope with the snare that alcoholic beverages can present?
14 Accordingly, some Christian hosts have decided to provide wine, beer, and other alcoholic drinks only if they can personally oversee what their guests are served or consume. If a group is larger than the host can directly oversee, such as the Jewish weddings mentioned, alcohol in quantity can be a dangerous snare. A person might be present who fought and overcame a problem with drinking. You can appreciate that general, unregulated access to alcohol could tempt him to overindulge and ruin the occasion for all. An overseer and father in Germany commented that his family benefits from pleasant association at social gatherings with fellow believers. He added, though, that the potential for problems was definitely greater when beer was easily available.
15. How can proper guidance of social gatherings be achieved?
15 The wedding in Cana had a “director of the feast.” (John 2:8) This is not to say that a family having a group to their house for a meal or a period of association would have to appoint a director. The husband would be responsible for oversight of the event. But whether a group is just two families or is somewhat larger, it should be clear that someone is responsible for what goes on. Many parents check on this when their son or daughter is invited to a social gathering. They contact the host to ask who will oversee the entire occasion, including being present to its end. Christian parents have even adjusted their own schedule to be present so that both older and younger ones could enjoy mutual fellowship.
16. What are appropriate considerations as to the size of gatherings?
16 The Canada branch of the Watch Tower Society writes: “Counsel relative to limiting the size of social gatherings has been understood by a few elders to mean that large gatherings at wedding receptions are in violation of the counsel. They have concluded that if we are counseled to keep our social gatherings to a small, manageable size, it would be wrong to have 200 or 300 people at a wedding reception.”* Rather than overemphasizing an arbitrary size, prime attention should be given to proper oversight, however many will be there. The quantity of wine that Jesus provided indicates that quite a sizable group attended the wedding in Cana, but evidently it was suitably overseen. Other feasts back then were not; their size may have been a factor leading to inadequate oversight. The larger a gathering, the greater the challenge, because it is easier for weaker ones, who are inclined toward excesses, to assert themselves. At unsupervised gatherings they may promote questionable activities.—1 Corinthians 10:6-8.
17. How may Christian balance be shown when a gathering is being planned?
17 Fine oversight of a social gathering includes its planning and preparation. This does not require devising a catchy theme to make it unique or memorable but which would imitate worldly parties, such as costume balls or masquerade parties. Can you imagine faithful Israelites in the Promised Land planning a party where all were to dress like pagans in Egypt or another land? Would they plan sensuous dancing or wild music that might be the rage among pagans? Back at Mount Sinai, they did get ensnared in music and dancing such as may have been current and popular in Egypt. We know how God and his mature servant Moses viewed that entertainment. (Exodus 32:5, 6, 17-19) Hence, the host or overseer of a social event should consider whether there will be any singing or dancing; and if so, he should be sure that it is consistent with Christian principles.—2 Corinthians 6:3.
18, 19. What insight may we gain from Jesus’ having been invited to a wedding, and how might we apply this?
18 Finally, we remember that ‘Jesus and his disciples were invited to the marriage feast.’ (John 2:2) Granted, an individual Christian or a family might simply visit others for a pleasant, upbuilding time. But for planned social events, experience shows that determining beforehand who will be there helps to prevent problems. The importance of this was stressed by an elder in Tennessee, U.S.A., who has reared sons and daughters who are in the full-time ministry. Before he or his wife would accept an invitation, or give his children permission to attend, he contacted the host to be sure that the attendees were predetermined. His family was protected from snares that have befallen some at gatherings open to all, whether for a meal, a picnic, or exercise, such as playing ball.
19 Jesus discouraged inviting to a gathering just relatives, old friends, or ones of similar age or economic situation. (Luke 14:12-14; compare Job 31:16-19; Acts 20:7-9.) If you carefully choose whom to invite, it is easier to include Christians with a variety of different ages and circumstances. (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2) A few of them might be spiritually weak or new ones who can benefit from association with mature Christians.—Proverbs 27:17.
Entertainment in Its Place
20, 21. Why may entertainment fittingly have a place in our lives?
20 It is fitting for us as God-fearing people to be interested in our entertainment and to be concerned that such is proper and that we are balanced in the amount of time we use for it. (Ephesians 2:1-4; 5:15-20) The inspired writer of Ecclesiastes felt that way: “I myself commended rejoicing, 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.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15) Such balanced pleasures can refresh the body and help to offset problems and frustrations that are common in the present system.
21 To illustrate, an Austrian pioneer wrote to an old friend: “We had a very nice outing the other day. About 50 of us set out for a small lake near Ferlach. Brother B———— led the procession in his van, carrying three grills, folding chairs, tables, and even a table-tennis table. We enjoyed it tremendously. One sister had an accordion with her, so there were a lot of Kingdom songs. The brothers, young and old, enjoyed the companionship.” She had fond memories of well-supervised recreation that was kept free of snares such as overdrinking or loose conduct.—James 3:17, 18.
22. While enjoying social entertainment, what warning should each of us keep to the fore in our thinking?
22 Paul urged us to be careful not to yield to the desires of the imperfect flesh, not even making plans that expose us to temptations. (Romans 13:11-14) That includes plans for social entertainment. When we apply his advice to such, we will be able to avoid circumstances that have led some to spiritual shipwreck. (Luke 21:34-36; 1 Timothy 1:19) Rather, we will wisely choose wholesome recreation that will help us to maintain our relationship with God. We will thus benefit from social entertainment that can be considered one of God’s good gifts.—Ecclesiastes 5:18.
The Watchtower of April 15, 1984, contained balanced advice on weddings and wedding feasts. A prospective groom and his bride, as well as others who will help them, can beneficially review this material before making their wedding plans.
What Have We Learned?
□ What balanced view do we find in the Bible about enjoying social entertainment?
□ Why should consideration be given to the aspect of time and the nature of the entertainment?
□ What are some things that a Christian host can do to guard against snares?
□ If it is proper and balanced, what can entertainment accomplish for Christians?
[Picture on page 18]
A host or a director at a gathering is responsible to see that guests are not ensnared