Entertainment Is a Poor Substitute for Rest

by Dan Dillon

Entertainment (noun): amusement or diversion provided especially by performers

The Bible doesn’t use the word entertainment, except maybe once: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13:2), but the context is about hospitality, not “having fun”. It doesn't use recreation or amusement, either.  It doesn’t seem to speak specifically on these topics.

But it has a lot of very big things to say about rest, like:

  • “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” (Exod. 20:8-10)
  • "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." (Ps. 127:2)
  • “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
  • "Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience." (Heb. 4:11)

Some entertainment can be good.  Some entertainment can be bad, especially when its content violates God’s commands related to sexual immorality, impurity, filthiness, foolish talking, and crude joking. (Eph. 5:3-4) But rather than talking about the content of entertainment, let’s stick to the main thesis: Entertainment is a poor substitute for rest.

Entertainment is a poor substitute, because we need rest, spiritual and physical, but we don’t necessarily need entertainment. If we did, wouldn’t there be at least one obvious command in the Bible, like “Six days you shall work, but the seventh day get some rest and be entertained”?  Of course, some rest may take the form of entertainment.  There’s nothing wrong, per se, with “It’s been a hard day at work, the kids are in bed, let’s watch the game.”

Entertainment is also a poor substitute because it can encroach on physical rest.  Haven’t we all stayed up just a little too late watching TV only to find the next day that were are tired and grumpy?

Finally, entertainment is a poor substitute because it can easily become an addictive habit, an end to itself

The three combined concern me most.  The people who provide entertainment are supposed to provide entertainment so good that you want more of it.  That’s not an accusation, that’s how all of us should work: provide a product or service so good that people will want to come back for more. 

But our flesh, our sinful nature, leads us astray. We decide to entertain ourselves: “this is fun, this is a good diversion,” but our flesh quickly says, “I deserve this. I want more and more of it.”  Next thing you know, entertainment becomes our focus, work becomes a drudge, and true rest, spiritual and/or physical, doesn’t happen.  The world doesn’t help, either, as it bombards us with messages like “watch this, you deserve this, this is cool”, etc.

If you, like me, have been stuck in this vicious cycle, how do we work ourselves out of it?  A few suggestions:

  • Sleep. You have certain things you must do when you are awake.  Do them. Then get some sleep.  Plan ahead for the sleep you need.
  • Rest.  Besides sleep, we need rest.  Time when we stop, slow down, reflect and give thanks.  Dare I suggest: rest from your usual labors one day in seven?
  • Examine. We all have had “harvest” times (e.g., a new baby, finals, big project at work), when work is long, sleep is lost, and rest seems impossible.  In those situations, you don't even have time for entertainment! However, when you do have time for entertainment, yet work and/or sleep is suffering, what is going on in your heart? Why doesn’t your God-ordained calling and his provision of rest satisfy you? Spend time examining yourself or talking with a friend about motives and priorities.

May we bless each other and prayer for one another as we strive to enter into his rest!