Theology of Fun: Excited Enjoyment

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

1 TImothy 6:17, ESV

I have managed to write a lot about fun without defining it, but my new working definition is “excited enjoyment.” Dictionaries seem to define “fun” as mere enjoyment, but this seems to be too broad. Fun comes from the excitement of novelty, creativity, competition, fear, arousal, or anticipation. Fun has the power to absorb our focus to the extent that it is tied to strong emotions. This is why fun is so memorable.

You can enjoy something that is comforting, relaxing, good, tasty, or beautiful without having fun. A steak is enjoyable, an onion ring volcano is fun. Cuddling is enjoyable, foreplay is fun. Sunbathing is enjoyable, body surfing is fun. The beatitudes are enjoyable, imagining a man with a plank in his eye trying to remove a speck from his friend’s eye is fun.

The previous paragraph is too simple, because the line between fun and other types of enjoyment is subtle. A software programmer might have a mild enjoyment of his work, or he might have fun as his logic and creativity are absorbed by his task. An adult may experience a ferris wheel as a pleasant ride while a child is full of wonder and excitement at being raised to new heights. Wine tasting is a fun method of enjoying aesthetic pleasure.

God made the world lively and diverse, full of new experiences and challenges. It is good to enjoy these things, and it is also good to be excited about them. God commands his people to enjoy food and drink, work and rest. I expect to write a future post on the importance of celebration in the Bible. This is not necessarily a command to have fun, but having fun is one important way that we enjoy God’s creation. The world is an exciting place, and this shows that God does not want our enjoyment of it to be monotonous.

The excitement associated with fun can be addicting and destructive. When we seek fun apart from God and His righteousness, it can become a powerful idol that demands more novelty and transgression. The Puritans, along with many other Christians, almost never commend fun without warning of its dangers; but this caution is often a killjoy. My advice for now is to follow these three simple guidelines, and then lighten up and enjoy yourself: 1. obey God, 2. don’t neglect your duties to your neighbor, 3. praise God for whatever you enjoy.

As Paul knew how to be content with abundance or need (Philippians 4:12), Christians should learn to be happy with or without fun. Fun is an opportunity to glorify God, spread joy, and build community; but in difficult times when fun is hard to find, Christians are sustained by the deeper joy they have in God.

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