All play, no work makes Jack an idolatrous boy

Has America become consumed by amusement? Certainly as we look at the lifestyle of the typical American family, amusement ranks high on its priority list.

My wife and I just returned from two weeks of vacation. Our first week was spent in the country in Neshoba County, Mississippi, with our granddaughter. Our purpose in going there was to attend a family reunion.

Our granddaughter is turning 4 years old this month, and so this was her first extended trip with Gramma and Papa. As we planned our trip, we did a Google search for things to do in Neshoba County. Guess what? There are no amusements in Neshoba County except for a casino and a water park.

Neither of these options seemed good for a 4-year-old. So we spent time doing “old-fashioned” things like fishing on an old family pond and visiting with seldom-seen family members. With the absence of amusements, we broke out books and crafts, and the results were amazing. We enjoyed great conversations; we sang at the top of our lungs; we memorized Scripture together; and we laughed like we had not laughed in quite some time.

We also were amazed at how quickly our granddaughter engaged her imagination, playing for hours by herself.

After dropping off our granddaughter at the end of week one, my wife and I made the drive to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for week two of our vacation. Wow, what a different atmosphere. People were everywhere chasing after amusement and adventure. As we observed the people in pursuit of recreation, we observed a number of interesting things.

1) A little bit of amusement seems to lead to a hunger for more. Over and over we listened as children who finished one adventure would cry out to their parents for another. It seemed that even a moment without busyness was too much and led to boredom.

2) Amusement does not necessarily add or deepen relationship. Much of amusement is interacting with the people who run the amusement, but it seldom seems to help us interact with others we are to enjoy life with.

3) For many, the enjoyment of amusements was very short-lived, and for some it brought no enjoyment at all. Parents often were distracted as they counted the cost of the experience. And the children seemed to never get enough, begging parents for “just one more thing” as they shopped in the stores or for “one more ride” as the family tried to leave. Often there were tears when a mom or dad said, “It’s time to go.”

Now let me say that I am not against having fun, especially when fun is found in the context of family. Building memories is important, and it is powerful. But I do believe that we as a culture have turned amusement into an idol.

The word amuse comes from the root word muse, which means “to think.” When you put the a in front of it, it means the opposite. Therefore, the word amuse means “not to think.” Thus, an amusement park is a place where people go “not to think.”

We live in a culture that values not thinking. No wonder our pursuits of amusement seem to lead to an unproductive lifestyle. It is certainly important for us to have periods of rest amid busy lives, but to pursue amusement at any cost for extended periods of time becomes counterproductive and can lead to laziness and entitlement.

I wonder if those of us who call ourselves Christians approach God as if He is an amusement. Do we mindlessly worship him, or do we engage our minds as we worship? It is my thought that we have unfortunately become consumers when it comes to our faith, looking for the next “thrill ride” of spiritual adventure or blessing, rather than seeking to honor God with our full attention.

Here is the haunting question: Are your faith and worship more about God and him receiving glory, or are they more about you and you receiving more blessing?

My friends, the life of faith is about being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Transformation does not come as one sits with a disengaged mind enjoying the pleasures of entertainment. Rather, transformation happens by the “renewing of the mind” according to Romans 12:2. How is it that the mind is renewed? By engaging the mind with God’s Word, we begin to grow and change.

Today we live in a “soft” culture. We are often unwilling to do the hard stuff in order to grow. Statistics say that 42 percent of adults never read another book once they finish their education. For adult males, this number is much higher.

Often when I ask a counselee to read from the Bible or a book to deepen his or her understanding of God and self, the counselee will ask if I might happen to have this book on DVD. We simply have lost the discipline of thinking deeply about important issues.

In conclusion, let me call you to a deeper experience of faith. Don’t just be a fan of Jesus, but become a follower of Christ. There is a big difference. Let us engage our minds and our hearts as we radically pursue God.

Mark Adcock is pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship in Fortville. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.