If we believe that the Christian religion relates to the whole of life, not just to those hours we spend in public worship or at work, then we must believe that God’s Word has something to say about our recreation, just as it does about our work and worship. What does it say? What principles can we find in the Bible to guide the Christian man as he engages in his recreation?
Realize that taking time for recreation is not wrong
God’s Word teaches us to work. However, it does not require that we work all the time. The Old testament law regarding the Sabbath Day demonstrates that God intended for man to take some time off from work to rest.
Jesus indicated in his own life the need for rest, for time off from the pressing problems and urgent tasks of His ministry. On one occasion Jesus said, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest for a while” (Mark 6:31).
Bring glory to God during recreation
Perhaps Colossians 3:17 would apply to our recreation, as well as to other areas of life: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the father.” This is also stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31.
How can recreation be “to the glory of God”? We can bring glory to God by refusing to engage in unethical, immoral, or illegal recreation. We will not, for example, be involved in gambling as a means of amusement, although millions of people around the world gamble regularly. This goes the same for alcoholic drinks, dancing and drugs.
Much of today’s entertainment appeals to our basest instincts; it may attract us because it offers sinful pleasures such as explicit movies, fornication, and prostitution. The Christian who seeks to keep himself “unstained by the world” (James 1:27), who chooses not to conform himself to the world.
(Romans 12:1, 2), We must fight against such temptations.
We can bring glory to God by always acting like Christians. Even people in the world recognize the responsibility to act properly in games. They want players to live up to an expected code of conduct.
If worldly people can tell the difference between players who abide by the rules and those who do not, Christians should live up to an even higher code of conduct. Our guidelines are imposed not only by the rules of the games, but also by the commands of Christ: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12) “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) Another way to bring glory to God is to give Him the praise for our ability to do well.
When athletes achieve something remarkable, they often say something like “I just want to thank God for giving me this ability.” They know where their great athletic skills came from; at least they are right about that.
Perhaps we should learn a lesson from them. We may think that God gives us the ability to sing, pray, or preach, but have the idea that any other talent we have comes from our genes, our desire, or our training. In truth, everything we have and are – including intellectual ability, writing skills, the ability to earn a living or any other talent – comes from God (James 1:17). If God has blessed us with the ability to excel at games, we ought to praise Him for that gift.
We can bring glory to God by using our recreation as an opportunity to make friends, with a view toward influencing them for Christ. Through recreation, Christians frequently get close to people who could through that friendship become receptive to the gospel.
Keep recreation in perspective
Whatever we do for recreation, we should keep it in perspective. Although “giving our all is important to us during a game, we must not let our recreation become all-important in our lives.
We can keep recreation in perspective by remembering the purpose of recreation. People in the world are deadly serious about sports. Christians also can be swept away in the tide of emotion that when that happens, we should stop and ask ourselves, “What’s this all about?” Why do we get involved in sports or games? We should do it for the good mental and physical health; for fellowship – for the opportunity to make, and be with, friends – for fun or pleasure; and for the glory of God. If we become so concerned about winning and do the opposite of what we should do, we should consider giving up that form of of recreation.
We can keep recreation in perspective by not allocating an inordinate amount of time and money to it. Christian men can be tempted to give priority to recreation over more important responsibilities. We need to remind ourselves that we should not spend so much money on games but rather give more to church. The same goes for spending time in recreation then spending time for our families or the services of the church. What, after all, is most important in life? Jesus told us to seek God’s kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). Recreation cannot come before God, nor should play before family.
We can keep recreation in perspective by recognizing its relative unimportance compared to the saving of our souls and the souls of others. Think of Paul’s words; “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). We must, therefore, make sure that we do not get involved in recreational activities in such a way as to put our souls, or the souls of others, in jeopardy.
Make enjoyable activities more spiritual and spiritual activities more enjoyable
We tend to view life as having separate compartments: “work,” “worship,” “family,” “recreation,” and so forth. This, of course, is not the biblical way for the Christian to view his life. Christianity is related to all of life. We can learn to see life differently, to recognize that the lines separating different parts of our lives are imaginary. We should realize that life has unity; each part is affected by every other part.
Our recreation can become more “spiritual.” That is, it can fulfill a religious purpose. We can use this principle every time we have a Christian camp. There “religious” experiences and “fun” experiences merge; campers go from one to another almost without noticing the transition. Faith and fun blend when the church has fellowship dinner, as members eat and talk and laugh together. How much better it is for Christian to get his “recreation” and “enjoyment” in these ways than to indulge his desire for amusement in totally secular, sometimes even anti-Christian, environments.
Our “spiritual” activities can also become “more enjoyable.” Is it possible that our church attendance, our hymn-singing, our praying can become more enjoyable? To make this happen, we need not change everything – the way we sing, the way we stand, what we do in worship. Change, even in incidental matters, is not the key to enjoying worship. If Christians are to enjoy worship, the change required is a change of attitude. We should have the attitude of the psalmist: “I was glad when they say to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1) If we will change our attitudes, we can learn to enjoy singing, reading the bible, and hearing God’s Word preached. We can even learn to enjoy giving! When we do, we may be able to say, “My favorite recreation is to go to church.” At that point, our “recreation” and our “religious responsibilities” will have merged.
A single theme runs throughout these suggestions: During times of recreation, remember the presence of Christ, your responsibility to Christ.
Remembering these three things may revolutionize your recreation.
Furthermore, the result will be that, whether you win or lose, you may be sure of two facts: (1) Others will know that a Christian man has been among them. (2) You can win ultimately an “imperishable” crown (1 Corinthians 9;25), a “crown of righteousness” to be awarded to you by the Judge of all the earth (2 Timothy 4:7,8)! This is a prize worth the struggle!