Mark 6:31, “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.”
This morning, we attempt writing upon a subject we have never written about before. Looking at the world around us, entertainment abounds, and most of it is foolish at best and ungodly at worst. A question that I as a minister get asked more and more often is, “Is there Biblically authorized entertainment that I can participate in without violating my walk and profession to Christ? If so, what is it?” Now, these people are not asking about church-sponsored activities and events. None of those would be authorized or condoned by Scriptural record, but on an individual level, what constitutes our “down time” or entertainment on a purely natural level? Does anything? As the world becomes more and more entertainment minded, I feel confident that I and many other ministers will have to field these types of questions more and more.
Undoubtedly, Scripture declares that we should love the Lord with every fiber of our being. (Luke 10:27) So, with such a clear principle, some would conclude – and some have – that entertainment is inherently bad as it detracts from that. As we should magnify the Lord with our body and spirit, some might think no room was left for entertainment of any sort nor of leisure time that was not immersed in the active, devoted service to Christ Jesus the Lord. While we should be found engaged in the clear commandments above, the Scriptures do bear out that times are necessary in this world for things of a nonspiritual nature.
Before we launch into the broad waters of what might be considered good entertainment or not, let us consider the difference between something being “unspiritual” or “nonspiritual.” We might also label the contrasting terms “carnal” or “natural.” When looking at the term “unspiritual” which would equate to something being “carnal,” we see something that is opposed to spirituality and is its enemy. Since the carnal mind is God’s enemy (Romans 8:7), unspiritual activity would be entertainment or otherwise that is contrary to spiritual things and dampers them in our lives. On the other hand something that is “nonspiritual” or maybe simply “natural” is something that does not actively destroy spirituality but simply lacks it. Rather than being spiritual things’ enemy, it is simply neutral.
Now, having laid out those two terms, one might say, “What was the point of that?” The point is simply this: many things in life are done that have no spiritual significance that do not actively destroy spirituality in our lives. For example, should I take my children to the park and spend time with them sliding down slides, etc. there is absolutely nothing spiritual in that activity. Truly, my love for my children has roots in spiritual things, but the activity itself does not actively promote spirituality. It is simply a natural pleasure. Does this mean that it dampers my spiritual thinking? It could should I be excessive in the activity, but the activity itself does not deter my spiritual deportment.
In our study verse above, we read about the word “leisure” with the thought that the disciples did not have it on this occasion. Our verse above gives insight into how we should view leisure. The word leisure simply means to have a convenient time. They did not have enough convenient time to even eat on this occasion. During their service to God, they could not even find a moment to eat and simply relax in a natural way. This brings us to a Biblical point that eating food bears no spiritual significance. Paul laboured to make such a point when dealing with Christian liberty in Romans 14. Are we any more or less spiritual depending on our diet or lack thereof? Not according to Paul. It is a natural activity that – inherently speaking – is simply nonspiritual.
These disciples were so engrossed in the service of God with so many others on this occasion that they could not even eat. No leisure for a meal. This should show us that leisure, entertainment, and the like always takes a back seat when the Master bids us. If we are engaged in God’s house, food is secondary. All things else are secondary. Now, the verse does show the Master’s understanding that rest is necessary. Therefore, while He does bid us come and labour with Him, He is also gracious to bid us rest a while as well. Labouring spiritually is taxing upon the natural faculties, and He understands that we need leisure from time to time. Notice though that the service was first; the rest was second.
So, the first principle about this leisure is that God’s work still comes first. Christ declared that His righteousness, His kingdom, etc. should always come first (and thereby most important) in our lives. (Matthew 6:33-34) What about food? He promises that should His service come first and more important in our lives, natural blessings, such as food, would be added as well. When Christ and His disciples walked, He did not preach all day every day for 3.5 years. They would naturally rest, naturally eat, naturally sleep, etc. None of these things bore spiritual significance, but were simply natural activities of a non-carnal nature.
Understanding that His service is first, let us seek some ground to discover what the Bible says about leisure or having convenient time to participate in natural things. Eating has been covered as one of those things. What about a husband and wife’s activities together? Certainly, my love for my wife should be rooted in the love of Christ and understanding how to treat her, with the example of Christ’s love to His bride. Do all of our actions bear spiritual significance? No they do not. Isaac was found sporting with his wife Rebekah. (Genesis 26:8) That word “sporting” means to laugh, play about, or even mock in a kidding way. What Isaac did with his wife was share time that just the two of them could enjoy with each other – nonspiritual in nature – that showed their enjoyment of one another’s company. So should it be with the husband and wife today.
Paul laboured to show that marriages have things other than just simply vows and service to God. (I Corinthians 7) During his lengthy discourse on that subject to the Corinthians, he plainly states that a man’s service to God will suffer (time-wise) as he will HAVE to make time for his wife. While his wife is definitely secondary with the Lord first and foremost, he does have to make time to please his wife, spend time with her, and share moments of laughter, sport, etc. with her. The reason that it is necessary is that God knows that our natural relationships need that. Paul understood such, and declared the necessity of husbands and wives pleasing one another with time (leisure) and entertainment.
So also does the family of a man require time devoted to them. As we stated earlier, we love our wife and children based on the love of Christ for and to us. What we do with them and for them should extend beyond natural affection and into the realm of self-sacrificing and abiding love. However, with that well-spring of love to them, we will certainly have affections for them that necessarily should be met. Could I pray and meditate more without doing things with my children? Absolutely. Could I find more time to study without a wife? Definitely. However, they should not be looked upon as detriments to our service, nor their requests for time met as deterrents to our walk. Rather, we should delight to spend time with them, and pray that God would sweeten our time with them and abundantly enrich our time with Him.
Inevitably, someone now says, “But preacher, you have not listed acceptable nonspiritual activities against unacceptable unspiritual activities.” No I have not, for the list could be lengthy and endless. However, Paul stated toward the end of a passage about liberty of action to do all that we do for the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31) He specifically had eating under consideration. Do we eat or not? That is unimportant when compared to the why. Why do it or not do it? For the glory of God. So, are we back to decrying against all leisure and entertainment? No we are not. Simply put, we are summing the matter with this thought.
If leisure time is secondary to God’s service of a spiritual design, spiritual service should be done to the glory of God. However, knowing that we have natural needs that must be serviced, that should be done to the glory of God. Perhaps we are in a season where we must put family or even food aside to worship God and actively walk with Him in sweet fellowship. If that is the proper course at the convenient time, we should do it to the glory of God. Perhaps our family needs attention, the children need some playtime, the wife needs some quality time, our bodies need rest, food, or relaxation time. Whatever the natural need might be, service it to the glory of God. How? Do it firstly because He says He is pleased when we live as families in such a way. Do it secondarily as it will strengthen our frame for future efforts of service to Him. No one is of much good to God’s kingdom as a “spiritual burn-out.” One of the fastest ways to reach that point is to deny the benefit and Biblical aspects of good leisure and recreation. It is never the first course, nor is it the biggest portion, but giving it its due place, we will experience more energy and efficiency for our times of spiritual service to God.