I am not an athlete. When I was a boy, say anywhere between 10 to 15 years old, ineptitude at sports was a particularly discouraging attribute. Perhaps some of you other non-athletes can relate. Though he remained unaware, I constantly pitted myself against my more athletic cousin. Granted, he was a year older than me, but to me it seemed like he could toss that football a mile. When I would attempt to return a pass it would kind of flop around in the air a bit like a beached fish and then sort of plop on the ground some 10 to 20 yards short of its destination. I achieved similar results in basketball, soccer, baseball, golf and just about any other sport that requires dexterity, strength, and aggressiveness (i.e. all of them).
Needless to say, I became a bit cynical about sports in general. I stopped trying and instead diverted my excess energy into a much more valuable alternative, video games (I hope you caught the sarcasm!). Now don’t get me wrong, I am not sitting here telling you all that you better get rid of the X-Box 360 or the Playstation 3 (though I personally always found Nintendo’s products to be far more ‘family-friendly’ and to be frank, fun). But when I look back at the hours I spent in front of that lit up box, I do not see a lot that was profitable for me. It wasn’t profitable for my health. As soon as I got a little older and my metabolism caught up with me, though I had developed no habit of exercise, I was quickly beginning to resemble the Pillsbury Doughboy. Neither was it profitable for my spiritual life. When you sit for a period of time and take in images, and this applies to just about any form of modern entertainment (music, movies, television), it stays with you in your mind when you walk away from it. I even remember sitting in church, after a Saturday evening of video game playing, seeing the pastor with my physical eyes, but traipsing through the imaginary worlds of video games with my mind’s eye. To an extent, video games were shutting off my intake of spiritual good and filling it instead with a lot of empty fantasy.
I think I Timothy 4:7, 8 is instructive in this matter:
“But refuse profane and old wive’s fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
Godliness is always our desire. We want to be like God. That is, we want to be holy. This is what we need to strive for. Being busy in the church, learning our catechism, attending society: this is sanctification! But notice what the text does not say. It does not say bodily exercise is unprofitable. It is profitable, a little. It is good and profitable to run and jump, to play. In contrast to this, playing video games and watching television more resemble the activity of a slug, except even slugs move a little bit. I do not think that the Bible necessarily condemns video games and television (provided that the content is OK). There is something to the activity of inactivity; it’s basically a form of resting (although you would probably be better off spending this time in a good novel!). I am, however, saying that such should be at the bottom of the list of priorities. Do those things which will have a positive impact on your walk as a Christian. That includes using your body as well as your mind (that goes especially for students and other pencil pushers like myself)! First of all, we need to strive for godliness, and I believe that this includes living according to the calling God has given us in a godly way, whether that be in a career/job or as a student. Second of all, we need to get some bodily exercise, even those of us who throw a football like a cheerleader. The 20 pounds I gained after marriage spurred me on to hit the gym a couple times a week, and I can attest to its profitableness. Entertainment ought always to be peripheral to these two things.