- “Cut off your hand, gouge out your eye” (Matthew 5:29).
- “hate your father and mother” (Luke 14:26).
- Die to self (Galatians 5:24) Bear your cross (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)
- bless those who curse you” (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28).
- Fear God (Proverbs 9:10), suffer well (1 Peter 3:17), strain forward, press on (Philippians 3:12-14).
The above is merely a sampling of commands given to Jesus-followers throughout the Bible which come to us either through the pen of Holy-Spirit inspired authors, or directly from the mouth of Christ himself.
When examined in context, each verse fits perfectly and usefully into the grand plan of God. Even with a basic understanding of the Christian faith, we could see why such mandates are given. The world has gone wrong, God is in the process of making it right, but before that happens his people, who are themselves made right through Christ and are to live rightly by grace, will experience some unexpected rough air.
The Necessity of Fun in the Christian Life
Struggle, pain, and suffering. All quite necessary things in the Christian life. But what about fun? Good, old-fashioned, leisurely, loving-the-moment, laugh-till-it-hurts, fun? Where are the commands to sit back and enjoy a good show? What about the charge to play a card game, or the stone tablet ordering you to take your significant other out for a nice steak dinner?
Fun seems like such a significant part of our lives. As kids, we live it. As teens, we have it. As adults, we wish we got more of it. Yet, it doesn’t seem like the Bible includes much of it. In fact, the Bible appears pretty fun-less in several places. Is God, the Creator of all things and giver of all good gifts, okay with fun? Better still, can followers of Jesus have fun in such a way that can bring glory to God without some sort of low-grade guilt?
As with words such as love, like, and hate, fun is a broader term than what is usually helpful. To combat this, we’ll break the word down using three descriptions, as well as discuss some God-ordained boundaries for fun. The hope is to help give a clearer picture on how Christians can not only have fun, but have it in a way that glorifies God and maximizes our satisfaction in him.
Fun as Rest
At the end of the creation account, God set a precedent that would benefit all of mankind to follow: he rested.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:1-3).
Most may know or have heard of God resting on the seventh day, but what does that mean? What exactly happened during this time of rest?
Although we do not know precisely what God did when he rested, we know what he didn’t do. He did not continue his primary toil of creating; rather, he took a day off from that which was his main pursuit. This was done not because God, in his infinite power, needed a break, but rather to set a weekly rhythm for creation by which we cease from primary labor to reset, re-charge, and re-focus on the things of Heaven.
If you’re a type-A personality like me, this can be challenging. I like to either be planning something, doing something, or accomplishing something. Yet God, in His infinite wisdom, bids us come and rest. Why? Because the message of the Cross is not of doing, it’s of what has already been done. The Scriptures remind us that Christ saved us “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
God’s rest removes the guilt of not doing. Put another way, we can have fun doing something we enjoy for the sake of enjoying it, with the understanding that we no longer need to work for God’s approval. We of course do not want our rest leading to habits that take us outside of biblical living and into sin, but we’ll consider this a little later on. So take a nap, watch the movie, enjoy your spouse. Have fun in your rest while letting your heart recall with gratitude that Christ accomplished the most critical work in your place.
Fun as Hobbies
In the past year, my wife and I have taken up golf. “Taken up” is actually a bit of a strong phrase. It’s more like just saying we’ve taken it up. But the more I play, the more I see why a guy will throw his nine iron into a pond, but be back for eighteen more next Saturday. One time I swung so hard I’m pretty sure I burst a blood vessel, only to see the black Nike logo smirking back at me seven feet away.
Everyone has hobbies. Whether it’s fixing cars, painting portraits, or bass fishing, we all have little pastimes that bring us happiness. The Bible even tells us that David played the harp and was skillful at it (1 Samuel 16:18). That certainly didn’t help his shepherding efforts. He likely learned to play from someone close to him and for the joy of the music he created. Sounds like a hobby to me.
Hobbies are good gifts, and therefore from the gracious hand of our Creator (James 1:17). The writer of Ecclesiastes, who many believe to be King Solomon, advises that “everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man” (Ecclesiastes 3:13). The word “all” here is, of course, all-encompassing. The toil to which Solomon refers is not merely vocational. Sure, toil could mean presentations given, but it could also mean cookies baked. It could be patients cared for, but also puzzles finished. For labor and leisure, God instructs us to “take pleasure” in what we do. Can a Christian have fun, like real, guiltless fun, partaking in a hobby they genuinely enjoy while bringing glory to God? Solomon would say yes.
Fun as Friends
Often our best memories are those with company. Even as a self-admitted and others-affirmed introvert, the times where I’ve had the most fun have been with friends.
Why is this? Simply put, we were wired for fellowship. God declares at the beginning of his story that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). He then went on to create a more attractive, better smelling human than Adam. This creation for fellowship exists not only in marriage, but extends into good friendship as well. Solomon visits us again with his wisdom advising that two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10), while Jesus teaches that one cannot express any greater act of love than to lay down his life for a friend (John 15:13).
Does fun with friends glorify God? If you are a follower of Christ, and if your circle consists of other believers who also want to please him with their lives, it most certainly does. Often times, the most enjoyable moments I have with friends are not necessarily at a Bible study or a worship gathering. It’s playing a card game, watching football, or quoting The Office. These times can lead to conversations about spiritual truths, while other times they don’t. Either way we know that our bond is formed with the foundation of a mutual faith in Jesus that drives everything we do and shapes who we are. We know in our moments of fun that if life happens and one guy starts to struggle, we’ll be there to offer encouragement and sharpen him up (Proverbs 27:17). Fun had within friendships rooted in the love and pursuit of Jesus certainly brings glory to God.
Of course, the preceding thoughts on fun would be wonderful if we could simply leave them be and head home. Unfortunately, the human tendency to warp things and turn away from how God intended them to be remains quite rampant. For the sake of our holiness, and for the glory of our God, fun has limitations to be honored.
Our fun in rest can certainly glorify God; however, the Scriptures warn against being slothful in zeal (Romans 12:11). Does the fun we have in our rest refuel our spirits for another week of following Jesus? Or do our activities create a sluggishness that deadens our spiritual fervor? We would do well to make those times of relaxation fertile soil in which our affections for Christ grow tall and strong.
How do we know if the pastimes we enjoy bring glory to God? A good litmus test is Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I encourage you to consider your hobbies. Are they noble and commendable? Can you keep them in check without creating an idol? If not, this may be a place where fun is stepping out of sync.
The boundary of fun glorifying God in friendship may be the most difficult of all. Paul warns in his letter the Corinthian church that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). This can be challenging if we find ourselves in a circle of friends who don’t seek to honor Jesus. If we are running with those whose idea of fun is more consistent with the flesh (impurity, dissension, idolatry, debauchery), then with the Spirit (love, joy peace, patience, kindness, self-control), it could be time to evaluate where our feet are taking us. Proverbs 13:20 tells us, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Let us keep our stride in step with those who seek to please Christ. Any fun had in such circles will be a sweet aroma before our God.
Fun is a tricky subject, but its ubiquity demands our attention. Like all good things, its seed can either produce harmful weeds that cloud our pursuit of Jesus, or blossom into happy fruit that fosters gratitude and deepens our love for God. As Jesus-followers, we ought always to have the bow of our ship turned heavenward. May the fun we have be a useful sail that helps spur us on to Christlikeness, and may our gracious God be pleased in our times of merriment as we seek to bring him the utmost glory with our lives.