You love entertainment. On-demand streaming, live television, video-sharing websites, and social media are all at your fingertips. Your ability to access entertainment swiftly and effortlessly has encroached on every aspect of your life. Research recently revealed that you’re tempted to check Facebook every thirty-one seconds.
Are your friends boring you with dull conversation? Grab your iPhone. Is your wife annoying you? Turn on your television. Is your professor uninteresting? Sign into Facebook. Entertainment is your means of escape from the inconveniences of life into a comfortable world of fantasy. And your means of escape has made you a slave.
Confessions of a Slave
If I’m honest, I’ve had an unbridled love for frivolous entertainment — over the years I’ve used it primarily as a means of escape. Entertainment was used to distract me from the guilt of sin, friction in relationships, or anxiety about work. It became what daily prayer and Bible reading should have been: a safe haven to retreat for rest and comfort.
I failed to recognize that my never-ending pursuit to be entertained had turned me into a slave. My love for my new master was subtly causing contempt towards God and reticence in my duty to delight in him.
A Tale of Two Masters
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus reveals that when we gravitate toward entertainment as a means of comfort, we’re moving further and further away from our Creator. The notion of two masters is, in fact, a fictitious tale. It’s impossible to have more than one. Jesus exposes an insightful reality: Love for one will cause hatred toward the other.
“Endless entertainment is a cruel master that seeks to devour our true joy and lead us away from Christ.”
If we devote inordinate amounts of time, money, and affection to anything, including entertainment, we will despise whatever draws us away. We’ve all been faced with the choice between spending time in prayer and God’s word or spending time with entertainment. At the crux of these crossroads, the all-satisfying gift of Jesus is pit against the temporal promises of entertainment. Whichever road is chosen increases hatred for the path denied.
When we choose the broad path to careless entertainment, seeds of contempt are planted for Christ. Likewise, when we choose the narrow road to Jesus, seeds of hatred are planted, not only for mindless entertainment, but all of our indwelling sin. This path reveals that endless entertainment is a cruel master that seeks to devour our true joy and lead us away from Christ, its source.
The Cruel Master
Entertainment over-promises but under-delivers. It is unable to satisfy what our hearts truly long for. We want rest. We want comfort. But entertainment can only offer a temporary fix. As soon as we wake up from hours of binging on Netflix or scrolling through social media, our problems remain, still waiting to be confronted. And we’re faced with the truth that all we’ve done is put off the inevitable.
Chasing joy in entertainment is like “chasing the dragon.” The term is a slang phrase, which refers to the continuous pursuit of an ultimate high previously obtained at the initial use of drugs.
For example, a drug user tries heroin for the first time and has an amazing experience. But when he returns to the drug, he can’t get that same experience. Instead, the experience gets weaker, so the user takes more and stronger heroin to reach that same feeling. As he “chases the dragon,” the user’s body decays inside and out. This decay usually manifests itself in extreme itching, unwanted weight loss, slurred speech, kidney or liver disease, and more.
Addiction to entertainment is similar. The physical and health effects may not be as striking as heroin, but the spiritual effects are costly. We chase mindless entertainment hoping for relief for our souls, but instead all it really can promise is death. It distracts us from the highest and ultimate good with a mirage of happiness and comfort.
Jesus Is the Good Master
In Matthew 11:28–30, Jesus invites all who labor and are burdened to come to him, promising to provide rest for our weary souls. This promise is not empty. In the gospel, he fulfills his promise by taking up our burden on the cross for our rest and joy in him.
“In communion with Jesus, we experience lasting joy that entertainment can only promise but never provide.”
I have never walked away disappointed when I’ve pursued my joy in God through prayer and Bible reading, reminded myself of his promises in the gospel, repented of my sin, and cried out to God for comfort. Were all of my problems solved? No. But my joy was restored, and my soul had feasted on his promises. Likewise, every time I’ve used entertainment as a means of relief for my soul, I was left wanting and unsatisfied.
Even still, when I find myself at that proverbial crossroads between communion with Christ and frivolous entertainment, I’m tempted to say yes to entertainment and no to God.
As we walk through life, we will be tempted to continue to engage entertainment carelessly and ignore our bondage. Some will continue to live like slaves, binging on entertainment and neglecting spiritual nourishment. But you don’t have to live in bondage.
The gospel supplies the power to say yes to God and no to endless entertainment. Here we uncover the beauty of our wonderful master and realize that Jesus is better. In communion with him, we experience lasting joy that entertainment can only promise but never provide.
The next time you find yourself at this familiar crossroads, cling to Jesus. Remember that he alone is your highest good. He died and rose so that we can experience communion with him, which provides the supreme joy that an escape to entertainment simply cannot compete with.