Several years ago I had the privilege of doing a Q&A with Wayne Grudem. (I highly recommend his books Systematic Theology and Bible Doctrine.) In this video, Wayne and I respond to the question, “Is it wrong for Christians to spend money on entertainment and leisure?”
As we shared in the video, Scripture says that God provides us with material things “for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17, NLT). When I speak on the subject of money and giving, I try to always emphasize that phrase from Scripture and express how thankful I am for it, because it allows me to enjoy God’s creation without guilt. I’m grateful to have recreational items, including a bicycle and a tennis racket. Nanci and I spend reasonable amounts of money on vacations that aren’t “necessary” but serve to renew us. She and I sometimes go out to dinner, enriching our relationship. These things aren’t essential, yet they contribute to physical health and mental and emotional refreshment.
By God’s grace, we’ve found we can give away my book royalties and a good portion of our discretionary income, yet still have breathing room for legitimate recreational spending (and what we keep still leaves us wealthy in comparison with most of humanity). As I say in Money Possessions and Eternity, it’s not what you give but what you keep that determines your lifestyle, but giving away a lot helps what you keep to not rule you or be your idol.
I believe that as believers, we should be wrestling with our own wealth in this materialistic, wealth-centered culture and seeking to give more. We shouldn’t assume that just because God has entrusted all this to us He intends for us to keep it. By embracing lifestyles that free up money, we can invest in helping others and furthering the progress of the gospel.
And yet, the answer isn’t asceticism, believing that money and things are evil. The biblical view is that God has provided for us in His creation a wealth of pleasures and comforts He desires us to enjoy, to His glory: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). When we worship God as God, everything else falls into place—and hobbies, sports, music, and entertainment can all enrich our lives as intended. (Unfortunately, because we’re fallen creatures and don’t see clearly, we can focus our lives on otherwise legitimate pleasures, turning them into idols. And some “pleasures” and entertainment are indeed harmful and addictive.)
So how do we find the right balance between how much we give, and how much we keep to use for our family’s needs, as well as for God-honoring recreation and enjoyment? I believe the tension reflected in that question is healthy. As we continue to grow in Christ, we prayerfully evaluate and seek God’s guidance. But may we always be determined to follow His lead as best we can discern it. And meanwhile, we should be careful not to judge others, and imagine ourselves better than they are because of our different lifestyle choices.