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Young people need recreation. Our Savior does not frown upon wholesome recreation. He was interested in the games of the children when He was here upon earth. He watched the children at their play (Matt. 12:16–19), and He watches the children at their play to-day, and delights in their play when it is wholesome and elevating. In the stress and strain of modern life, older people to need recreation if they are to do their very best work. But there are wholesome recreations, and there are gradual, subtly harmful amusements. It is impossible to take up amusements one by one, and it is unnecessary. A few principles can be laid down.
Do not indulge in any form of amusement about whose propriety you have any doubts. Whenever you are in doubt, always give God the benefit of the doubt. There are plenty of recreations about which there can be no question. “He that doubteth is condemned: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23) Many a young Christian will say, “I am not sure that this amusement is wrong.” Are you sure it is right? If not, leave it alone.
Do not indulge in any amusement that you cannot engage in to the glory of God. “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Whenever you are in doubt as to whether you should engage in any amusement ask yourself, Can I do this at this time to the glory of God?
Do not engage in any amusement that will hurt your influence with anybody. There are amusements, which perhaps are all right in themselves, but which we cannot engage in without losing our influence with some one. Now every true Christian wishes his life to tell with everybody to the utmost. There is so much to be done and so few to do it that every Christian desires every last ounce of power for good that he can have with everybody, and, if any amusement will injure your influence for good with any one, the price is too great. Do not engage in it. A Christian young lady had a great desire to lead others to Christ. She made up her mind that she would speak to a young friend of hers about coming to Christ, and while resting between the figures of a dance she said to the young man who was her companion in the dance, “George, are you a Christian?” “No,” he said, “I am not, are you?” “Yes,” she replied, “I am.” “Then,” he said, “what are you doing here?” Whether justly or unjustly the world discounts the professions of those Christians who indulge in certain forms of the world’s own amusements. We cannot afford to have our professions thus discounted.
Do not engage in any amusement that you cannot make a matter of prayer, that you cannot ask God’s blessing upon. Pray before your play just as much as you would pray before your work.
Do not go to any place of amusement where you cannot take Christ with you, and where you do not think Christ would feel at home. Christ went to places of mirth when He was here upon earth. He went to the marriage feast in Cana (John 2), and contributed to the joy of the occasion, but there are many modern places of amusement where Christ would not be at home. Would the atmosphere of the modern stage be congenial to that holy One whom we call “Lord”? If it would not, don’t you go.
Don’t engage in any amusement that you would not like to be found enjoying if the Lord should come. He may come at any moment. Blessed is that one whom when He cometh, He shall find watching and ready, and glad to open to Him immediately (Luke 12:36, 40). I have a friend who was one day walking down the street thinking upon the return of his Lord. As he thought, he was smoking a cigar. The thought came to him, “Would you like to meet Christ now with that cigar in your mouth?” He answered honestly, “No, I would not.” He threw that cigar away and never lighted another.
Do not engage in any amusement, no matter how harmless it would be for yourself, that might harm someone else. Take for example card playing. It is probable that thousands have played cards moderately all their lives and never suffered any direct moral injury from it, but every one who has studied the matter knows that cards are the gamblers’ chosen tools. He also knows that most, if not all, gamblers took their first lessons in card playing at the quiet family card table. He knows that if a young man goes out into the world knowing how to play cards and indulging at all in this amusement that before long he is going to be put into a place where he is going to be asked to play cards for money, and if he does not consent, he will get into serious trouble. Card playing is a dangerous amusement for the average young man. It is pretty sure to lead to gambling on a larger or a smaller scale, and one of the most crying social evils of our time is the evil of gambling. Some young man may be encouraged to play cards by your playing who will afterwards become a gambler and part of the responsibility will lie at your door. If I could repeat all the stories that have come to me from broken-hearted men whose lives have been shipwrecked at the gaming table; if I could tell of all the broken-hearted mothers who have come to me, some of them in high position, whose sons have committed suicide at Monte Carlo and other places, ruined by the cards, I think that all thoughtful and true Christians would give them up forever.
For most of us, the recreations that are most helpful are those that demand a considerable outlay of physical energy. Recreations that take us into the open air, recreations that leave us refreshed in body and invigorated in mind. Physical exercises of the strenuous kind, but not over-exercise, is one of the great safeguards of the moral conduct of boys and young men. There is very little recreation in watching others play the most vigorous game of football but there is real health for the body and for the soul in a due amount of physical exercise for yourself.