Wholesome Recreation That Refreshes
“Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.”—1 CORINTHIANS 10:31.
1, 2. Why may pleasurable activities be viewed as a “gift of God,” yet what frank warning does the Bible give?
IT IS natural to want to engage in activities that bring us pleasure. Our happy God, Jehovah, wants us to enjoy life, and he furnishes abundant provisions to make that possible. (1 Timothy 1:11; 6:17) Wise King Solomon wrote: “I have come to know that there is nothing better . . . than to rejoice . . . and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.”—Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13.
2 Such rejoicing as one pauses to reflect on good work accomplished is indeed refreshing, especially in pleasant association with family or friends. It may properly be viewed as a “gift of God.” Of course, the Creator’s providing so abundantly does not give us license to engage in unrestrained merriment. The Bible condemns drunkenness, gluttony, and immorality, warning that those who practice such things “will not inherit God’s kingdom.”— 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Proverbs 23:20, 21; 1 Peter 4:1-4.
3. What will help us to stay spiritually awake and to keep in mind Jehovah’s great day?
3 In these critical last days, as never before, Christians are faced with the challenge of living circumspectly in a corrupt world without adopting its practices. (John 17:15, 16) As foretold, people of today’s generation have become “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God” to the extent that they take “no note” of the evidence that the “great tribulation” is just ahead. (2 Timothy 3:4, 5; Matthew 24:21, 37-39) Jesus warned his followers: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare.” (Luke 21:34, 35) As servants of God, we are determined to heed Jesus’ warning. Unlike those in the ungodly world around us, we strive to stay spiritually awake and to keep in mind Jehovah’s great day.—Zephaniah 3:8; Luke 21:36.
4. (a) Why is it difficult to find acceptable recreation? (b) What counsel found at Ephesians 5:15, 16 do we want to apply?
4 Keeping free of the corrupt practices of the world is not easy, since the Devil has made them so desirable and accessible. It is especially difficult when we seek entertainment or recreation. Most of what the world offers is designed to appeal to “fleshly desires.” (1 Peter 2:11) Harmful entertainment is available in public areas, but it can also penetrate the privacy of the home by means of the printed page, TV, the Internet, and videos. Therefore, God’s Word wisely counsels Christians: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Only if we follow this counsel closely can we make sure that harmful entertainment will not entice us, absorb us, yes, even destroy our relationship with Jehovah, ending in our destruction!—James 1:14, 15.
5. From what do we receive our greatest refreshment?
5 Since Christians live busy lives, they understandably feel the need on occasion to enjoy some recreational activities. In fact, Ecclesiastes 3:4 says that there is “a time to laugh” and “a time to skip about.” So the Bible does not treat recreation as a waste of time. But recreation should refresh us, not endanger our spirituality or encroach on spiritual activities. Mature Christians know from experience that greater happiness comes from giving. They put the doing of Jehovah’s will foremost in their lives and experience genuine ‘refreshment for their souls’ in accepting Jesus’ kindly yoke.—Matthew 11:29, 30; Acts 20:35.
Choosing Acceptable Recreation
6, 7. What can help you decide what is acceptable or unacceptable entertainment?
6 How can we be sure that a certain form of recreation is acceptable for a Christian? Parents provide guidance for their children, and elders help as needed. Really, though, it should not be necessary for others to tell us that a particular book, movie, game, dance, or song is unacceptable. Paul said that “mature people . . . through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14; 1 Corinthians 14:20) The Bible sets forth guiding principles. Your conscience, trained by God’s Word, will help you if you listen to it.—1 Timothy 1:19.
7 Jesus said that “by its fruit the tree is known.” (Matthew 12:33) If a recreational pursuit produces the rotten fruitage of an attraction to violence, immorality, or spiritism, it should be rejected. It is also unacceptable if it endangers one’s life or health, if it causes economic hardship or discouragement, or if it causes others to stumble. The apostle Paul warned us that if we wound the conscience of our brother, we are sinning. Paul wrote: “When you people thus sin against your brothers and wound their conscience that is weak, you are sinning against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat flesh at all, that I may not make my brother stumble.”—1 Corinthians 8:12, 13.
8. What dangers exist in using electronic games and videos?
8 Stores are flooded with electronic games and videos. Some may provide harmless fun and relaxation, but such entertainment increasingly features what the Bible condemns. Surely it is not just innocent fun when a game requires that its players maim and kill or act in a grossly immoral way! Jehovah hates those “loving violence.” (Psalm 11:5; Proverbs 3:31; Colossians 3:5, 6) And if playing a game promotes in you greed or aggression, drains you emotionally, or squanders valuable time, then recognize the spiritual harm it causes and quickly make adjustments.—Matthew 18:8, 9.
Fulfilling Recreational Needs in Wholesome Ways
9, 10. What can discerning ones do to fulfill their recreational needs?
9 At times, Christians ask: “What is acceptable recreation? So much of what the world offers runs counter to Bible standards.” Be assured that satisfying recreation can be found, but it takes effort. It requires forethought and planning, especially on the part of parents. Many find rewarding relaxation within the family circle and in the congregation. Enjoying a leisurely meal while discussing the events of the day or a Bible topic is pleasant and upbuilding. Picnics, appropriate games, camping trips, or hikes can be arranged. Such wholesome recreation can be fun and rewarding.
10 An elder and his wife who have raised three children report: “From an early age, our children were involved in choosing where we would go on vacation. At times, we allowed each child to invite a good friend, which made the vacation more enjoyable. Certain milestones in our children’s lives were recognized. Periodically, we invited family and friends in the congregation to our home. We had cookouts and played games. We took drives and walks in the mountains, using such occasions to learn about Jehovah’s creation.”
11, 12. (a) What can you do to include others in your plans for occasional recreation? (b) What kind of gatherings have proved unforgettable for many?
11 Can you widen out individually or as a family to include others when making plans for occasional recreation? Some, such as a widow, a single person, or a single-parent family, may need encouragement. (Luke 14:12-14) You might also include a few who are newly associated, being careful, of course, not to expose others to any harmful influence. (2 Timothy 2:20, 21) If infirm ones find it difficult to go out, perhaps arrangements can be made to bring a meal to share with them in their home.—Hebrews 13:1, 2.
12 Gatherings at which guests enjoy a simple meal, hear how others became Christians, and learn what has helped them to stay faithful to God have proved unforgettable for many. Bible topics can be brought up for discussion, with all present, including children, being invited to share. Such discussions can be profitable interchanges of encouragement without anyone having to feel uncomfortable or inadequate.
13. How did Jesus and Paul set the example in showing and accepting hospitality?
13 Jesus set the proper example in showing and accepting hospitality. He always used such occasions to impart spiritual blessings. (Luke 5:27-39; 10:42; 19:1-10; 24:28-32) His early disciples imitated his example. (Acts 2:46, 47) The apostle Paul wrote: “I am longing to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you in order for you to be made firm; or, rather, that there may be an interchange of encouragement among you, by each one through the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:11, 12) Similarly, our gatherings should provide the atmosphere for an interchange of encouragement.—Romans 12:13; 15:1, 2.
Some Reminders and Cautions
14. Why are large social events not advisable?
14 Having large social events is not advisable, since supervision at such is often difficult. At a time that does not interfere with spiritual activities, a few families may decide to enjoy a picnic together or play a game that is not overly competitive. When some of the elders, ministerial servants, or other mature ones are present at a social gathering, they provide an influence for good and the occasion can be even more refreshing.
15. Why should hosting an event include proper supervision?
15 At social gatherings, those making the arrangements should not overlook the need for proper supervision. While you enjoy showing hospitality, would you not feel very bad if you learned that because of some negligence on your part, a guest was stumbled by what occurred in your home? Consider the principle discussed at Deuteronomy 22:8. The Israelite who constructed a new home was required to build a parapet around the flat roof, which was often used to entertain guests. Why? “That you may not place bloodguilt upon your house because someone falling might fall from it.” In a similar way, what you do—without imposing unreasonable restrictions—to protect your guests at a social gathering should be with their physical and spiritual interests at heart.
16. What discretion should be exercised if alcohol is served at a social gathering?
16 If alcohol is served at a social gathering, this should be done with great discretion. Many Christian hosts decide to serve alcoholic drinks only if they can personally oversee what their guests are served or consume. Nothing should be permitted that might stumble others or tempt anyone to overindulge. (Ephesians 5:18, 19) For various reasons, some guests may decide to abstain from alcohol. Many places have a minimum legal drinking age, and Christians will be obedient to Caesar’s laws even if these regulations seem overly restrictive.—Romans 13:5.
17. (a) If music is played at a social event, why is it important that the host be very selective? (b) If there is dancing at a gathering, how should modesty be reflected?
17 The host should make sure that any music, dancing, or other entertainment is consistent with Christian principles. Musical tastes differ, and a wide variety of music is available. However, much of today’s music promotes a spirit of rebellion, immorality, and violence. There is a need for being selective. Decent music need not necessarily be sedate, but neither should it be sensuous or vulgar, with emphasis on noise and a loud beat. Be careful that you do not leave the choice of music to someone who has yet to appreciate the need for keeping the volume at a moderate level. A dance that involves immodest behavior, emphasizing erotic movements of the hips and breasts, would obviously not be proper for a Christian.—1 Timothy 2:8-10.
18. How can parents safeguard their children by supervising their social activity?
18 Christian parents should find out what is planned for any social gatherings that their children are invited to attend, and it would be wise to go along with them in most instances. Sadly, some parents have allowed their children to attend unsupervised parties where several in attendance have been enticed into immorality or other unseemly conduct. (Ephesians 6:1-4) Even if youths are in their late teens and have shown that they can act responsibly, there is still a need to help them to “flee from the desires incidental to youth.”—2 Timothy 2:22.
19. What reality can help us focus on what we should be “seeking first”?
19 Occasional recreation and entertainment that is wholesome and refreshing can make life more enjoyable. Jehovah does not deny us this pleasure, but realistically we know that such activities do not in themselves help us to store up any spiritual treasures in heaven. (Matthew 6:19-21) Jesus helped his disciples to understand that “seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness” is the important thing in life, not what we may eat or drink or wear, “things the nations are eagerly pursuing.”—Matthew 6:31-34.
20. Faithful servants of Jehovah can anticipate what good things from the Grand Provider?
20 Yes, whether we are “eating or drinking or doing anything else,” we can do “all things for God’s glory,” thanking the Grand Provider for good things enjoyed in moderation. (1 Corinthians 10:31) In his Paradise earth just ahead, there will be endless occasions to enjoy to the full Jehovah’s generosity, along with the wholesome fellowship of all who meet his righteous requirements.—Psalm 145:16; Isaiah 25:6; 2 Corinthians 7:1.
Do You Remember?
• Why is it difficult for Christians today to find recreation that is wholesome?
• What are some forms of recreation that have proved to be satisfying for Christian families?
• When enjoying wholesome recreation, what reminders and cautions should one keep in mind?
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Choose recreation that produces good fruitage
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What forms of recreation do Christians reject?