Is Entertainment A Waste Of Time? Part 2
As a result of the discussion generated by last week’s post on this topic, I want to make some general statements.
First, I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer to the question, is entertainment a waste of time? In that regard, I don’t think one person can give a definitive answer for someone else — only for himself. Third, I do think the Bible gives some things for us to think about.
Here’s my observation: our society is fast moving toward hedonism [as defined by the Oxford American Dictionary, “the ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.”]
Because we live in a society obsessed with making it to the weekend, I think we Christians, and especially we lovers of speculative fiction, ought to think through our own personal “philosophy of entertainment.” It might affect what we view, listen to, read, play, and for writers, it might affect what we write.
First, a further word about our culture. Here in the U.S. we’ve morphed a phrase from the Declaration of Independence which might be at the root of our current condition. What the document says is this:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. [emphasis mine]
However, we live as if we have the right to happiness and that we are to pursue it with vigor.
What does the Bible say about entertainment or pleasure or happiness? Not a great deal. We know King David, King Solomon, and a variety of others wrote songs. Most were related to God or His people.
Then there is the Song of Songs.
We know Jesus told stories. Those all had a point that related to what He was teaching.
Still, He attended the wedding feast in Cana.
The most extensive Bible passages about pleasure are in Ecclesiastes. Solomon, though the wisest man ever, went through a period of deep doubt and despair. And it appears to have started with what I call his pleasure phase.
Earlier he’d set his mind to know wisdom, decided that only brought grief and pain, so he switched gears.
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?” … All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.
– Ecc 2:1-2, 10-11
Apparently his discovery that his pursuit of pleasure was vanity, ushered in his nihilistic phase. He decided that Mankind was no different than the beast of the field, that the sum of all things was zero. And he concluded
I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot.
– Ecc 3:22a
Even though he says later that “the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure,” (Ecc 7:4b) he still says living for happiness is all there is because the righteous and the wicked alike die (Ecc 9:2-3). Live it up, he says, for this is your reward (Ecc 9:7-9).
Thankfully, at the end of his life Solomon reversed much of this, but I find his foray into hedonism instructive (as I’m sure God intended). Solomon admitted that he didn’t deny himself any pleasure and yet he found it vanity.
Was that because of the excess? I don’t think so. If there had been a level of pleasure that was satisfying, why would he not return to it and sing its praises? Ultimately, during this phase, the best he could come up with was that pleasure was better than being dead.
So what does all this have to do with today and speculative literature and the entertainment we embrace? I’ll look at that next week.
The Book of Ecclesiastes is my favorite book of the Bible. Unfortunately, this book (along with Song of Songs) have been the most overlooked books of the Bible.
I feel it is the book that most people can relate to in our modern era. Wealth, Pleasure, Knowledge, Adversity, and Timing all are covered in that book.
Solomon had it all and it meaningless without God.
Modern Christianity has had this love/hate relationship with entertainment and then you add on top an American Protestant Ethic and entertainment is seen as suspect (to say the least).
Even though Solomon laments about pleasure and riches…he doesn’t dismiss them entirely. But we have to proper perspective and without God these things even up being meaningless.
I believe entertainment is important and it should be a part of one’s life (whether is reading Fiction, TV & Movies, Video Games or the Internet). But it shouldn’t dominate one’s life and that’s very easy to do in our culture.
Reading Proverbs, Songs of Solomon, and Ecclesiates I gather one thing, one idea: That Solomon was ultimately human. I have met people who are God lovers and somehow the pleasures of this world brought them down or caused their mindstance on things to change. What does this mean in relation to entertainment today? Perhaps after working, praying, studying, and fasting ,a brief respite into Gossip Girls, or Access Hollywood, or a nice small gathering at a friend’s home has become the 90% fruit of our lives. One must learn to balance-as I am learning.
For example, I am trying to input more God in my life than wordly stuff. Have my daily prayers and meditations. Work hard. Study and afterwards watch a bit of TV or read a good book. The content in these media may be questionable at some point but God has giving me a brain to know what is real, false, and acceptable.
Erica and Marion, I appreciate your thoughts. Again because I’ll be writing on this again next week, I’ll hold off giving my response just yet, but your feedback really helps me hone my thinking.
Marion, it’s interesting that you say Ecclesiastes is your favorite book of the Bible. I wrote a post over at my own site some time ago about how it is my least favorite. 😮
Because of that, I specifically asked God to help me understand what He wanted me to understand when I read it this time. In light of this topic, I ended up going over several chapters more than once, and I definitely learned more than I ever have. God is good to answer prayer! 😀
I think just like everything moderation is the key in this area. If entertainment becomes the new idol to bow down and worship, then repentance is in order and getting back to God is the goal.
The thing about pursuing happiness is that we’re happiest when we’re doing what God has called us to do. I find the command to redeem the time to be quite convicting. How much time do I waste every day?
I do think relaxation and entertainment are good, but the best of both of those things are filled with meditation upon the person and work of the Lord.
Thank God for the Bible, and for the Holy Spirit who makes us able to understand it. We don’t have to wonder about what we should be doing. And even better than finding in the Bible what God wants us to spend our time on, we get to know God better as we read what he’s written for us.
Ha, I’m fried on this computer and I was just about to click over to Netflix and watch a movie. I guess I’ll spend some time with God instead. He’s much more edifying to me.
How can entertainment be a waste of time when the joy of the Lord is our strength ( joy is not always the same as happiness ) and there are pleasures evermore at His right hand?
It can become a waste of time and even idolatrous if it takes away from our time with the Lord and hinders our spiritual progress. All things in moderation.
Is it ironic that fiction writers are contemplating that entertainment may be a waste of time.
[…] one of the commenters to last week’s post noted, it’s ironic that a fiction writer is contemplating whether or not entertainment is a […]