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By Rev Charles Seet

Life BPC Weekly, 2004-04-18

Text: 1 Timothy 6:17

In our present hedonistic age, forms of recreation range from the more traditional ones like soccer, basketball, volleyball, swimming, surfing, bowling and golf, to newer forms like skateboarding, mountain biking, free-falling and spelunking. Man is indeed creative when it comes to play, and there is really no end to the pursuit of thrilling and captivating experiences that one can enjoy today. 

In 1 Timothy 6:17 we are told that God "giveth us richly all things to enjoy." Hence, the enjoyment of recreation in itself is not sinful, and there is no need for us to adopt a killjoy attitude towards it. Our youths enjoy a vigorous game of captain's ball together after some intensive Bible study, while the older ones prefer to go savour a meal at a newly discovered food court. Recreation has its place in promoting good fellowship and in refreshing tired spirits. However there are certain important guidelines that we need to apply in our recreational pursuits: 

1. Recreation that involves gambling with one's life or possessions is sinful.

Some enthusiasts deliberately hazard their lives in order to enjoy themselves - e.g. "bungee" jumping (unless done under strict supervision). Part of the fun in this sport is in taking the risk, dicing with danger and death. It is true that every sport has a certain amount of risk of injury and death. But as Christians we should not take part in any game or sport with a significantly high risk of these, because we are stewards of the precious gift of life that God has entrusted to us (1 Corinthians 6:20). Taking unnecessary risks with one's life is also tempting the Lord, and is akin to Satan's suggestion for Christ to cast Himself down from the pinnacle (Matthew 4:6,7).

Christians should also not take part in any form of recreation that involves the gambling of one's possessions. Neither should we be involved in anything that is closely associated with gambling, like horse racing, or betting on the outcome of an event. Whenever a person risks his assets on a speculated result, in the hope of getting gains for himself, he gambles. He is motivated by his own covetousness, which is condemned by the tenth commandment. 

Christians who love their Lord would do well to remember what great insult gambling added to His crucifixion torments, as soldiers cast lots for His vesture (Matthew 27:35). Let this sinful image of gambling be permanently etched on our minds whenever we feel drawn to it!

Many have been deceived by the world into believing that gambling is just a harmless game, and that opening a casino can be a helpful boost to the economy. There is much more to gambling than that: The gambler dreams of that chance of a lifetime to become rich overnight by hitting the jackpot. This incentive spurs him on and on to go after the elusive desired result, until he transgresses the boundaries of propriety and good judgment to get it. Then nothing matters more to him than attaining that desired result. This is why it is impossible to permit gambling in society without having to deal with the strains and pains that it brings to spiritual life, married life and family life. Let us consider the effects of gambling:

a) It is very addictive. In the US, gambling addicts now constitute a higher percentage of the population than alcoholics. 

b) It causes people to lose sight of reality. Many gamblers believe that all their problems will be solved, if they strike it rich.

c) It promotes a belief in good luck rather than hard work as the way to prosperity. It goes against the Protestant work ethic. 

d) It causes people to become intensely self-centred. Nothing matters more to them than the indescribable thrill of risking one's assets to make some gain. It leads to getting, rather than giving as a way of life.

e) It often draws people into a life of dishonesty and sin. Gamblers often resort to borrowing money, cheating, stealing and embezzling funds to feed their habit.

f) It results in families destroyed by poverty. The parent who gambles becomes so caught up with it that he becomes unable to feel for others. He gambles late into the night instead of spending time with his family who needs him. He sells off the house and other family securities, and destroys the lives of his loved ones.

One can see from the above effects how easily man's depravity is soon expressed wherever any form of gambling is permitted. The world of sports has been much defiled by game-fixing because of heavy betting. Friends who used to laugh together have become bitter enemies overnight because of evil schemes to win their bets. This happened even in the time of the Judges of Israel, when Samson's Philistine associates cheated to answer his unanswerable riddle and to obtain the prize he had promised to them (Judges 14:12-18). 

Let us no longer regard gambling as a recreation for us to enjoy, but as a grievous social evil which is contrary to all godly conduct!

II. Recreation that enjoys violence and bloodshed should be avoided.

Can a Christian participate in sparring contests? Only if he is doing it to train for self-defence or national defence. Participation in such contests for recreation is not for us, especially when it involves violence and bloodshed. During the decadent years of the Roman Empire, one of the favourite Roman pastimes was to watch the gladiator contests. Oftentimes the spectators' excitement was heightened by fights that ended in the most gruesome deaths. I believe that Christians who lived at that time must have taken a stand to refrain from such recreation. 

Today, the Spanish enjoy bullfights, others enjoy cockfights, and little boys enjoy watching spiders or fighting fish attacking one another. Others enjoy watching wrestling (e.g. WWF) or boxing matches on TV. The wrestling and boxing 'heroes' are not good role models for us or our children to emulate. Although boxing is mentioned favourably by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:26 as an illustration for self-discipline, and wrestling is mentioned by him in Ephesians 6:12, those who indulge in watching such matches need to be careful of the vicarious element in them. Whenever you root for someone who fights, it is easy to imagine that you are the one doing the fighting and you enjoy inflicting pain and wounds on the opponent. How can this be a help to your ongoing personal pursuit of Christ-like meekness and gentleness?

The same principle applies to enjoying violence and killing in comic books, novels, TV shows, VCDs, Internet websites, and the whole host of violent video games where the player not only watches realistic scenes of violence, torture and bloodshed, but also participates in inflicting them through his mouse, joystick or keyboard!

III. Recreation that brings one into close association with ungodliness should be avoided.

Let us take bowling as an example. By itself, this sport is a perfectly legitimate and clean recreation, based not on chance but skill. But if the bowling alley becomes a place frequented mostly by people who smoke, curse and drink, then we must not go there. It is for the same reason that we refrain from stepping into a night club, a cinema or karaoke lounge. 

Certain forms of recreation can only be engaged in as a team, together with other people, e.g. basketball, soccer, and hockey. You must be careful about the kind of team you choose to play in. If you choose to play with team-mates who are all very worldly, rowdy, cursing and swearing, and who love to indulge in the unwholesome conversation and entertainment that characterizes the camaraderie enjoyed after each game, you are setting up a great stumbling block for yourself to fall over. Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14), especially in areas where you have a choice. 

Now, it will be different, if you were to just have an occasional friendly one-on-one tennis or badminton match with a non-Christian friend. In such a situation, there is hardly any adverse influence. In fact, through such personal contact with you, that friend may even come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, if you make use of the opportunity to share the Gospel with him.

IV. Recreation should not be scheduled on the Lord's Day.

To non-Christians, Sunday is probably the best day for recreational activities. Sundays will find them crowding into the tennis courts, bowling alleys and golf courses. A Christian must not be conformed to the world in this, but should show how different he is from the world - seeking his greatest pleasure in being in the presence of God rather than in the world's recreations (Psalm 84:10). Thus, if you want to enjoy any form of physical recreation, please do your best to schedule it on the other days of the week rather than on the Lord's Day.

V. Never allow recreation to become an obsession.

God's Word says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." Let us always keep our priorities in proper order. Recreation is good, but it needs to be placed after other things that are more important in life. 

Many people tend to overdo whatever they love to do. For example, the avid golfer spends most of his time shopping for golf clubs and outfits, practicing his strokes, reading golf magazines to keep himself abreast with world golfing championships. There must be a well defined limit to your involvement in any form of recreation. It is one thing to enjoy some physical recreation, but it is another thing altogether to aspire to be the greatest world champion in that recreation, and to make a name for yourself there. By doing this you have fallen into the sins of pride and selfish ambition.

Let us be aware that even a very good thing can be abused and become a stumbling block to one's spiritual life! If a pursuit of any recreation causes a Christian to compromise his relationship with God, and becomes more important to him than the things of the Lord, and to fulfilling his responsibilities to his family, that recreation has become a snare to him. May the time you spend with the Lord always be your chief source of enjoyment in this present life! Psalm 16:11 - "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11