If we take a few minutes to think about it, few of us would deny that we are living in a culture that is obsessed with entertainment and amusement. The movie, television, and video gaming industries along with recreational activities such as travel, golf, hunting, and fishing all offer opportunities for escape from the pressures and cares of everyday life. And let’s not forget our fascination with professional and college sports. All of these things are designed to offer us, often as mere spectators, endless ways to feel some passion, some excitement about something. But often that “something” (when considered in the grand scheme of things) doesn’t really matter very much at all.

But it’s no wonder that we desire an escape from the harsher realities of life. If we focus on the daunting problems that threaten the human race we easily become depressed and lapse into hopelessness. The endless succession of wars, pandemics, famines, racism, injustice, and natural disasters that dominate the news cycle are just too much to bear. These things can drive even the most optimistic person to despair! So it’s no surprise that we indulge ourselves with amusement as a distraction and escape mechanism from engaging in the most serious and important things in life.

A quick examination of the word “amusement” may be in order here. The word “muse” when used as a verb essentially means to think deeply about things, so when we add the letter “a” as a prefix of negation, the word “amuse” is understood as not thinking deeply about things. So we see that amusement is anything that is designed to distract us from thinking deeply about important things, especially those weighty realities like the evils of injustice, poverty, suffering, and death. The problem with this approach is that living in a constant state of amusement prevents us from engaging the most important questions of life, all the while ignoring the fact that it’s these things that give life meaning and purpose.

In Second Timothy 3:1-4 the apostle Paul describes what happens when a culture is dominated by people who are trying to find some satisfaction in their lives while ignoring the purpose and meaning of life. Here is what he has to say to Timothy:

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 

But as believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ we should not be conformed to this pattern of selfish pleasure seeking and escapism. We should not be avoiding the most important questions and responsibilities of our lives, rather we should be engaging them with the greater realities revealed to us in God’s word. We don’t see the world as a hopeless and scary place that is too dreadful to think about. We see it as a broken place that is being restored by God. We see ourselves as agents of that restorative process, operating under the authority and empowerment of the God of the Universe. We bring hope within the present reality, not outside of it. We bring the “good news” that it won’t always be this way. We bring Jesus to a world that, without Him, really is too terrible to think of very deeply..

Philippians 4:4-9 says:

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me–everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. 

So, is there room for amusement in the life of a disciple of Jesus? There are most certainly times to rest and be restored. And while leisure and recreation can be restorative, a life consumed by amusing distractions from the most important things in life is not what we were made for. We have been saved and set apart by the power of God for something much greater than an amusing life.

Ephesians 5:15-16 says:

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.