“Hey, hey, hey
I got a condo in Manhattan
Baby girl, what’s hatnin’?
You and your ass invited
So gon’ and get to clappin’…”
-Bruno Mars, That’s What I Like
Christians should think of entertainment as an extension of the biblical category of “friendship.” Entertainment is for relaxation, laughter, encouragement, good stories, to be challenged, for different perspectives, to discuss or argue with. These are all legitimate purposes for friends. So, who are your friends? The music you listen to, the movies you watch, the television shows you keep up with, the blogs and magazines you read are all circles of friendship, a sort of community you keep. And not only is entertainment a form of community, it forms community. And you become what entertains you.
Community & Entertainment
In the beginning God created Adam, and he was good but it wasn’t good for him to be alone. He needed a companion, a friend. So God created Eve. This isn’t just a statement about single guys. This is a statement about community and entertainment. God created Eve to talk to Adam, to accompany Adam, to see the world and enjoy the world with him but differently. God’s command to take dominion over the earth implies technology and art. Entertainment is the result of exploring the world and talking about it in creative ways. Entertainment is the result of digging into the world, rearranging parts of it, and then sitting back and enjoying it. When we do this, we are imitating the way God took good things, rearranged them, and made them better and enjoyed what He made. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (WCF 1).
Entertainment and friendship are good things; they reflect the way God is. God has friends: Moses (Ex. 33:11), Israel (Judg. 5:31), Abraham (2 Chron. 20:7, Is. 41:8, Js. 2:23), and those who fear God (Ps. 25:14). God is entertained by the things He has made (e.g. Job 38-41). Like a father who is entertained by his children, God enjoys people and what they make and say and do. In this sense, salvation in Jesus is the great renovation project. God comes in human flesh to restore fellowship, arts, and entertainment. But what the gospel teaches us is that everything must be made new through the cross of Jesus. People are made new through dying with Christ and rising with Him. And if we are made new that way, so are all other good things. All good things must be crucified with Christ and raised in Him. Stories and music, art and poetry, dancing and games must all be nailed to the cross, buried, and raised.
Friendship with God & the World
“Friendship with the world is enmity with God” (Js. 4:4). James says that there is a certain way in which we must not be friends with the world. John says: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is of the world” (1 Jn. 2:15-16). First off, we should note that this is not a blanket condemnation of everything in the world because God also loves the world and sent His Son to save the world (Jn. 3:16). Jesus said to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us because that’s what our Father in heaven is like (Mt. 5-6). Clearly, there is a right way to love the world and a wrong way to love the world. John actually makes this explicit – he’s talking about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That’s the part of the world we must not love, we must not be friends with. Bruno Mars is a great example of lust and pride. If we are friends with lust and pride, we cannot be friends with God. Part of the reason God doesn’t want us to look to the lust and pride of the world for entertainment is because it doesn’t do what good entertainment is supposed to do.
What is Good Entertainment?
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20). Good entertainment is like a good friend: It makes you a better person. Sometimes this can be laughter, sometimes thoughtfulness, sometimes rebuke, sometimes inspiration. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Prov. 17:17) Selfish entertainment isn’t loyal, and therefore it won’t be there for you when you need it. Bruno Mars makes all kinds of promises. He’s going to buy you diamonds and take you shopping in Paris. But he’s lying. He’s a lying creep. But a great book, a great movie, good music is like a true friend, and is still good when you come back to it next month, next year. It will be there for you like a brother. Good entertainment is good at all times. But bad entertainment is like day old french fries. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). A lot of pop culture is a scam to get kids to scramble to stay cool, and no one will remember that movie or song or video game in three years. Poor entertainment is a snare: “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare” (Prov. 22:24). You should choose your friends in order to honor your parents, and therefore, you should choose your entertainment the same way. “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend…” (Prov. 27:9-10). If you wouldn’t bring Bruno Mars home with you, why would you download that song? Or watch that show or movie? “The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father” (Prov. 28:7). “He who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth” (Prov. 29:3). Gluttony settles for easy pleasures rather than pursuing the hard work of maturity, excellence, and beauty — the stuff of real friendship.
Friendship, Entertainment, and Gravity
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov. 27:6). Every friendship has a gravity, a current pulling in some direction. You should never step into a moving body of water without knowing which way the current is pulling, and in the same way, you should never be in a friendship without knowing which way the friendship is going. Either you are being led toward Jesus, or you are leading others toward Jesus. The same is true of entertainment. This is how Jesus is the friend of tax collectors and sinners (Mt. 11:19, Lk. 7:34). He forgives, heals, cleanses, and sets free. He doesn’t leave us in the dark like so many songs and shows do. Jesus raises us up to a new and glorious future. He calls us friends and shows us true friendship, by laying His life down for us (Jn. 15:13-15). Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother, and in Him the world is given back to us to enjoy.