A few weeks ago, my son tested positive for COVID-19. We all immediately knew what that meant: we were all going to be stuck in the house together for a few days! While that is certainly not a bad thing, we did need to come up with some creative ways to fill all the time we would usually be spending out and about.
Naturally, my wife started thinking of all the home projects that could get done. Of course, the kids had some ideas—most of them related to watching lots of movies and their favorite kids’ programming on TV. It shocked me how automatic their response was: we’re sick, we’re stuck at home… let’s watch stuff! Why would we not?!
Our children love to be entertained. They are excited, committed, shameless consumers of amusement. They enjoy the diversions that are so readily available all around them today. And that’s not all bad. Those amusements can provide laughs, fun family times and memories, and points of connection with others.
But the little consumers God has entrusted to us are also prone to the negative impacts of entertainment. Some of those negative impacts are blatant and easy to spot, while others are more subtle. Often the more hidden dangers have more to do with the contents of their own sinful hearts than any blatant outside influence. But once again we have an opportunity as dads to direct them to the perfect guide for life—a guide that can help them think through and wisely consume all forms of entertainment.
My goal is to arm us from God’s wonderful Word with a few simple truths and principles that can guide us as we determine the entertainment to which our kids are exposed. And as we take action based on those truths, we have the opportunity and responsibility to show them why—so they are equipped to think biblically, too! From early elementary through the teen years, they can do that!
Definitions and Foundations
In Part 1 we’ll focus primarily on some foundational thoughts as we prepare to dig into those principles in Part 2. Defining what we mean by entertainment seems like a good place to start.
We could define entertainment as “any action that is calculated to provide diversion, pleasure, interest, or amusement.”1 This definition covers quite the broad spectrum of activities for our kids. It includes the more common forms of entertainment we typically think of when we hear the term (things like TV, movies, gaming, internet, and music). But it also could include broader categories such as hobbies, leisure, and recreation. While most of our application points will focus on the former categories, the truths we will see from Scripture speak to those broader categories too.
1 Peter 1:13-16 provides us with a great starting point on entertainment choices for our kids. As God’s people they are called to be holy—set apart and specially dedicated to God. That pursuit requires us to be prepared and alert to the subtleties around us (13a) and to rely fully on God’s great grace for help (13b). We must remember what we’ve been saved from and how much of a natural pull those desires still have on us (14).
According to verses 15-16, the ultimate standard for a believer’s choices and conduct is holiness for God’s glory. Not my natural likes or dislikes, not my preferences, not my excuses or feelings, but God’s glory. That’s the goal for everything, including how I entertain myself. What I do must reflect his holiness.
Scripture and Entertainment
The Bible may not specifically critique the current animated shows on Nickelodeon or provide an inspired review of the latest animated Disney movie, but it does direct us as we make entertainment choices for our kids (and as we teach them to do the same). Here are some overarching realities God’s Word instructs us to remember.
1. God has a plan for entertainment.
God is the Creator and ultimate Source of all good pleasure (Gen. 1:28-30). He wants his creatures to enjoy life! Scripture highly approves of pleasure, but only within God’s boundaries. Pursuing pleasure outside of his boundaries is dangerous and condemned (Gen. 2:16-17). Our children must know that God has boundaries and that we need to give concerted effort to find and discern what they are.
2. Your enemy has his own plan for entertainment.
Satan is a master deceiver (Gen. 3:1-5; John 8:44b). He is also a master of counterfeits (2 Cor. 11:14). Our enemy is quite capable of using something that seems wholesome, innocent, and even positive to his own ends. He effectively uses the systems and structures of this world as powerful tools to accomplish those ends (1 John 5:19).
He wants to use entertainment to subtly affect your thinking (as opposed to God’s Word doing so). He wants to subtly hinder your ability to be holy for the glory of your God. And he’ll gladly use leisure habits developed at an early age to accomplish both those goals. We must be vigilant to foster something different in our children.
3. Your own tendencies should concern you.
Your heart is naturally deceitful (Jer. 17:9). Your natural desires lead to sin (James 1:14-15). You’re no better than Adam and Eve; your heart is easily drawn to Satan’s counterfeits (Gen. 3:6). In short, we cannot trust ourselves to be adequate judges of the entertainment we pursue. And that’s true whether we’re kids or grownups!
What can we conclude?
In short, the realm of entertainment must be viewed as a battleground, just like any other area as our children proceed through their developmental years. Our entertainment choices are ultimately a reflection of our hearts. And left to ourselves, that’s not a good thing.
Your child’s pleading for screen time does not naturally flow from a place of innocence. Your teen’s audiobook selections don’t either. They may not know it, but their natural desires are in play, and that’s dangerous. Our natural desires, left unchecked or unsanctified, are disastrous determiners of our entertainment choices.
And so is the world’s system. There are plenty of wholesome and non-objectionable options out there for our kids. It is certainly possible to find redeemable and even admirable content for their consumption. But we must remember two things:
First of all, entertainment produced by humans flows from hearts just like we described in the previous paragraph. All of it. Both its design and intended effect are governed not by holiness but by marred fallen motives.
Second, our enemy intends to use it for his own ends. And as a master deceiver he is immensely effective at it.
I’m not trying to freak us out. I’m not saying your child or teen always has the most devious intentions possible as they make their entertainment choices. I am in no way suggesting that we cloister our children from all forms of entertainment provided by this world. But we need to be wary of our enemy and his masterful wielding of the tools at his disposal. And we need to acknowledge the reality of our own hearts and how they direct our desires in the entertainment we pursue.
So if we can’t trust ourselves, where do we turn? Where do we direct our kids? Scripture should be our main guide in all our entertainment choices. We can trust that perfect inspired guide! That’s where we will go in Part 2 of this post still to come. We will look at several timeless principles that will serve as mental pegs on which to hang our thinking and decisions surrounding entertainment.
Though written thousands of years ago, God’s Word is just as alive and profitable as ever. And that will continue to be true for the next generation, too! Aren’t you thankful for that?!
Note: Read Part 2 here.
Taken from Upright Downtime by Brian Hand (BJU Press, 2008) page 4. ↩