Is Your Recreation Beneficial?
“Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.”—EPH. 5:10.
1, 2. (a) How does God’s Word indicate that Jehovah wants us to enjoy life? (b) Viewing recreation as a “gift of God” will move us to do what?
THROUGHOUT the Bible, we find statements indicating that Jehovah wants us not only to live but also to enjoy life. For instance, Psalm 104:14, 15 states that Jehovah is causing “food to go forth from the earth, and wine that makes the heart of mortal man rejoice, to make the face shine with oil, and bread that sustains the very heart of mortal man.” Indeed, Jehovah makes crops grow to yield grain, oil, and wine for our sustenance. But wine also ‘makes the heart rejoice.’ It goes beyond what is strictly necessary to maintain life and adds to our joy. (Eccl. 9:7; 10:19) Yes, Jehovah wants us to be joyful, our hearts filled with “good cheer.”—Acts 14:16, 17.
2 There is, therefore, no reason to feel guilty when we once in a while schedule some time to “observe intently the birds of heaven” and “the lilies of the field” or to enjoy some other activities that refresh us and enrich our life. (Matt. 6:26, 28; Ps. 8:3, 4) A wholesome life is a “gift of God.” (Eccl. 3:12, 13) Viewing leisure time as part of that gift will move us to use it in a way that will bring pleasure to the Giver.*
Diversity and Limitations
3. Why is it reasonable to allow for diversity in recreation?
3 Those who have a balanced view of recreation allow for diversity yet also recognize the need for limitations. Why so? To answer, let us compare entertainment with food. Popular dishes differ from one part of the world to another. In fact, what people in one area relish may be unappetizing to people elsewhere. In a similar manner, what Christians in one part of the world view as pleasant recreation may not be appealing to Christians elsewhere. Even among Christians living in the same area, what one may view as relaxing (perhaps curling up with a good book), another may view as boring; what one may view as refreshing (perhaps sightseeing on a bicycle), another may view as exhausting. Still, we accept that in such matters as food and recreation, there is room for diversity and personal preference.—Rom. 14:2-4.
4. Why do we need to set limits on the kind of recreation we choose? Illustrate.
4 However, we also realize that allowing for diversity in recreation is not a license to indulge oneself. To illustrate, consider again the example of food. Though we may be willing to eat a variety of foods, we would not deliberately consume food that is rotten. Eating such food would go against common sense and could endanger our health. Similarly, though we may be open to a variety of forms of wholesome entertainment, we would not pursue leisure activities that are life-threatening, violent, or morally rotten. Engaging in such activities would go against Bible principles and would endanger our physical or spiritual health. To make sure that we stay within reasonable limits, we do well to determine in advance whether some recreation that appeals to us is beneficial or not. (Eph. 5:10) How can we do so?
5. How can we determine whether our recreation meets God’s standards?
5 For recreation to benefit us and be pleasing in Jehovah’s eyes, it needs to meet specific standards set out in God’s Word. (Ps. 86:11) To determine whether that is the case regarding a type of recreation you may like, you might consult a simple checklist. The list is made up of three questions that can be summed up in the words what, when, and who. Let us consider them one at a time.
What Does It Include?
6. What entertainment do we need to reject, and why?
6 Before engaging in a form of entertainment, the first question to ask yourself is, What?—that is, ‘What is the nature of the leisure activity to which I feel attracted?’ As you seek the answer, it is useful to keep in mind that there are basically two categories of entertainment. To the first, we say no; to the second, maybe. What is the first? In this wicked world, much entertainment is characterized by activities that flagrantly violate Bible principles or break God’s laws. (1 John 5:19) True Christians say a resolute no to all such entertainment. This includes entertainment that features sadism, demonism, homosexuality, pornography, or violence or that glorifies other vile, immoral practices. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10; read Revelation 21:8.) No matter where we may be, we prove to Jehovah that we “abhor what is wicked” by refusing to get close to such entertainment.—Rom. 12:9; 1 John 1:5, 6.
7, 8. How can we evaluate the quality of a certain form of entertainment? Illustrate.
7 The second category of leisure activity consists of forms of entertainment that do not center on practices that are expressly condemned in God’s Word. In such cases, before choosing the entertainment, we should carefully compare the activity with Jehovah’s view of what is wholesome, as expressed in Bible principles. (Prov. 4:10, 11) Then we need to make a personal decision that leaves us with a good conscience. (Gal. 6:5; 1 Tim. 1:19) How can we do so? Think of this: Before eating a new dish, we would first want to find out what its main ingredients are. Similarly, before engaging in a form of recreation, we need to investigate what its main features are.—Eph. 5:17.
8 For instance, you may like sports, and that attraction is easily understood. Sports can be fun and exciting. What, though, if you are attracted to certain sports because of their aggressive competitiveness, excessive risk taking, high rates of injury, riotous celebrations, nationalistic fervor, or similar “ingredients”? After examining what is involved, you would likely decide that it would be hard to harmonize your thinking with Jehovah’s way of thinking and with the message of peace and love that we preach to others. (Isa. 61:1; Gal. 5:19-21) On the other hand, if a certain leisure activity is made up of “ingredients” that are wholesome in Jehovah’s eyes, then such recreation may well be beneficial and refreshing to you.—Gal. 5:22, 23; read Philippians 4:8.
When Do I Pursue It?
9. What is revealed by our answer to the question, ‘When will I engage in recreation?’
9 The second question to ask yourself is, When?—that is, ‘When will I engage in recreation? How much time will I spend on it?’ Our answer to the question what? reveals much about our inclinations—what we find acceptable and what we find unacceptable. However, the answer to the question when? reflects our priorities—what we find important and what we find unimportant. How, then, can we determine whether the level of importance that we attach to our entertainment is proper?
10, 11. How do Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 6:33 help us in deciding how much time to spend on recreation?
10 Jesus Christ told his followers: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.” (Mark 12:30) Therefore, our love for Jehovah comes first in our life. We demonstrate that this is the case by following Jesus’ admonition: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33) How can that statement help us in determining how much time and importance to assign to recreation?
11 Note this detail: Jesus admonished us to ‘keep on seeking first the kingdom.’ He did not tell us to ‘keep on seeking only the kingdom.’ Obviously, Jesus knew that we would need to seek many things in life in addition to the Kingdom. We need housing, food, clothing, a basic education, employment, recreation, and the list goes on. However, among all the things that we are seeking, only one pursuit comes first—Kingdom interests. (1 Cor. 7:29-31) That fundamental truth should move us to pursue our secondary activities, including recreation, in such a way that they enable us to carry out our primary activity—caring for Kingdom interests. If we do that, limited recreation can be beneficial.
12. How can the principle found at Luke 14:28 be applied to recreation?
12 So, then, when it comes to spending time on recreation, we do well to count the cost in advance. (Luke 14:28) We need to determine how much of our time a certain leisure activity will cost. Next, we must decide how much of our time it is worth. If pursuing a form of recreation will mean neglecting such important activities as personal Bible study, family worship, attending Christian meetings, or sharing in Kingdom preaching, it is not worth the price. (Mark 8:36) But if an occasional leisure activity energizes us to keep on pursuing Kingdom interests, we may well decide that the time we spend on that type of recreation is worthwhile.
Who Are My Companions?
13. Why should we carefully consider with whom we share in recreation?
13 The third question to ask yourself is, Who?—that is, ‘Who are the ones I want to share my leisure activities with?’ It is important to consider this aspect of recreation. Why? Because the quality of our recreation is greatly influenced by the quality of our companions. Just as eating a meal is usually more pleasurable when you do so in the company of good friends, engaging in recreation is often more enjoyable when you do so with good companions. Thus, it is understandable that many among us, especially young ones, enjoy recreation that is shared with others. However, to make sure that an activity will be beneficial, it is wise to determine in advance what sort of individuals to choose as companions and what sort to avoid.—2 Chron. 19:2; read Proverbs 13:20; Jas. 4:4.
14, 15. (a) What example did Jesus set in choosing the right companions? (b) What questions should we ask ourselves regarding our companions?
14 Following Jesus’ example in choosing companions will be very helpful. From creation onward, Jesus had a love for humans. (Prov. 8:31) While on earth, he showed loving consideration for all kinds of people. (Matt. 15:29-37) However, Jesus drew a line between being friendly and being a close friend. While he was friendly toward people in general, he was a close friend only to those who met specific requirements. Speaking to his 11 faithful apostles, Jesus stated: “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.” (John 15:14; see also John 13:27, 30.) The only individuals whom Jesus embraced as friends were those who followed him and served Jehovah.
15 Hence, when you consider whether you should choose a certain individual as a close friend or not, it would be wise to keep Jesus’ statement in mind. Ask yourself such questions as: ‘Does this individual demonstrate in words and deeds that he is obeying the commands of Jehovah and Jesus? Does he have the same Bible-based values and morals that I have? Will being in his company encourage me to put the Kingdom first in my life and to be a loyal servant of Jehovah?’ If you are sure that the answers to those questions are yes, you have found a good companion with whom to enjoy your leisure activities.—Read Psalm 119:63; 2 Cor. 6:14; 2 Tim. 2:22.
Our Recreation—Does It Pass the Test?
16. What do we need to determine regarding our entertainment?
16 We briefly considered three aspects of entertainment—quality, quantity, and company. To be beneficial, our entertainment needs to match closely the Bible-based standard for each of these aspects. Hence, before engaging in a form of recreation, we need to put it to the test. When it comes to quality, we want to know: ‘What does it include? Is it wholesome or debased?’ (Prov. 4:20-27) Regarding quantity, we want to find out: ‘How much time would I spend on it? Is the amount appropriate or not?’ (1 Tim. 4:8) And concerning company, we need to determine: ‘With whom will I share in entertainment? Are such companions good or bad?’—Eccl. 9:18; 1 Cor. 15:33.
17, 18. (a) How can we test ourselves to see whether our entertainment meets the Bible’s standards? (b) What are you personally determined to do when it comes to your choice of entertainment?
17 If a form of entertainment fails to meet the Bible-based standards in any one of these three aspects, it does not pass the test. On the other hand, if we make sure that our leisure activities meet the Bible-based standards in all three aspects, our recreation will bring honor to Jehovah and benefits to us.—Ps. 119:33-35.
18 So, then, when it comes to recreation, let us strive to do the right thing at the right time and with the right people. Yes, may it be the heartfelt desire of each one of us to follow the Bible’s advice: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.”—1 Cor. 10:31.
In this article, the terms “recreation” and “entertainment” are used interchangeably to refer to the time we set aside for leisure activities that bring us pleasure.
Can You Explain?
Regarding recreation, how can you apply the principles found at . . .
• Matthew 6:33?
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How can we follow Jesus’ example in choosing our friends and our leisure activities?