With the summer holidays just ahead of us, many find the time to be relieved of the usual daily toil and find recreation a welcome change. Is there any counsel for us in regards to how we should choose our time aside from the usual weekly work?

“He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.” – Proverbs 21:17

This is a fairly strong verse to begin with. It associates a type of pleasure with drink, with not good results – poor and not rich. So is there any acceptable pleasure that will not leave a man (or a woman) poor?

“And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” – Mark 6:31

Here we see some balance. There is obviously pleasure and pleasure! One can always take something that is good and enjoyable to extremes. Is there any room for enjoyment? Obviously there is a time and place to take time out and let the mind rest. In fact it is essential to have rest and recreation. Is there a line of definition between recreation and amusement?

“There is a distinction between recreation and amusement. Recreation, when true to its name, re-creation, tends to strengthen and build up...Amusement, on the other hand, is sought for the sake of pleasure and is often carried to excess.' – Ed, p.207

There are obviously two avenues for our time away from regular work and both can be taken to extremes, amusement and recreation. So often the games can start off so innocent and pleasurable, then it becomes more aggressive and even a harsh spirit can  be displayed. There needs to be a balance. The following quote emphasises this very clearly.

“There are persons with a diseased imagination to whom religion is a tyrant, ruling them as with a rod of iron...They consider all recreation or amusement a sin... This is one extreme. Others think that the mind must ever be on the stretch to invent new amusements and diversions...They learn to depend on excitement and are uneasy without it.” – CH, p.631

But there is an element that God's people need to be cautious of as well. While God is trying to get His people to get going and do something, there is another side. Genuine Sabbath-keepers are in danger of dedicating themselves too intensely and need a break.

“I was shown that Sabbath-keepers as a people labor too hard, without allowing themselves change or periods of rest. Recreation is needful to those who are engaged in physical labor and is still more essential for those whose labor is principally mental. It is not essential to our salvation, nor for the glory of God, to keep the mind laboring constantly and excessively, even upon religious themes.”— 1T, vol.1, p.514

For our young people, they do not  typically lead a sedate life near as much as the older in years. Their minds and bodies are more active and need innocent pleasures. In the computer age, younger people are sitting more and more in their work and pleasure, even more so, they need to get out into the fresh air and be active.

“Youth cannot be made as sedate and grave as old age, the child as sober as the sire. While sinful amusements are condemned, as they should be, let parents, teachers, and guardians of youth provide in their stead innocent pleasures, which will not taint or corrupt the morals.” — CT, p.335

So what is innocent pleasure and what is sinful amusements? Can manual labour be as beneficial as sports?

“The public opinion is that manual labour is degrading. But men (and women) may play as hard as they like at cricket, or baseball, or in pugilistic (like boxing) games, without being degraded! Satan is delighted when he sees human beings using their physical and mental powers in that which does not educate, which is not useful, which does not help them to be a blessing to those who need their help. While they are becoming experts in games that are not of the least value to themselves or others, Satan is playing the game of life for their souls...” —R&H, March 13, 1900

From that statement, there is obviously a difference between sport for ones own pleasure that doesn't really benefit anyone else but themselves, and long term doesn't really do a lot for the player. The work of recreation where the worker gets a benefit, and can benefit others, is the ideal. At the end of the day, when we have had a days recreation, can we look back and appreciate the time we have spent and gained much from our activities? Has it affected others to aid them, to benefit them enjoy their day as well, or perhaps days to come? For example, cutting bush tracks, enjoying the fresh air and the views that others can benefit and enjoy in the future!

Spirit Of Competition

There can be differences even within the same form of recreation. An example is a game of ball. An innocent game with family, throwing and catching can be constructive and educational to young minds, but to draw a line in the ground and bring determination to win is something very different. Same ball, same location, but a different spirit,  the spirit of stiff competition. What about this spirit of competition?

“When students at the school went into their match games (competitive sports) and football playing, when they became absorbed in the amusement question, Satan saw it a good time to step in and make of none effect the Holy Spirit of God...
It is an easy matter to idle away, talk away, and play away the Holy Spirit's influence.”  —1 SM, vol.1, p.131

“In plunging into amusements, match games, pugilistic performances, they declared to the world that Christ was not their leader in any of these things. All this called forth the warning from God.” — FCE, p.378

Further to these pugilistic games, the counsel goes further that these sports, such as boxing and football which fit into the category of pugilistic, are schools of brutality.

“Some of the most popular amusements, such as football and boxing, have become schools of brutality. They are developing the same characteristics as did the games of ancient Rome. The love of domination, the pride in mere brute force, the reckless disregard of life, are exerting upon the youth a power to demonstrate that is appalling.” – AH, p.500

So does this mean that a family together in a picnic setting who want to kick a ball round is forbidden, no that is not what the quote is counselling. It is obviously the brutality and competitive aggression that goes with it.

Bowling Alleys

Bowling alleys are not the best form of recreation either, “The true Christian will not desire to enter any place of amusement or engage in any diversion upon which he cannot ask the blessing of God. He will not be found at the theater, the billiard hall, or the bowling saloon.” — MYP, p.398

The word saloon may give a clue that it is not necessarily the bowling in-and-of-itself that is the most damaging, but with the liquor present and available and the type of environment it creates and the people it attracts.

Gymnasiums also come into this question. “Exercise in a gymnasium, however well conducted, can not supply the place of recreation in the open air, and for this our schools should afford better opportunity. Vigorous exercise the pupils must have.” — Ed, p.210

“Gymnasium exercises may in some instances be an advantage. They were brought in to supply the want of useful physical training, and have become popular with educational institutions; but they are not without drawbacks. Unless carefully regulated they are productive of more harm than good. Some have suffered lifelong physical injury through these gymnasium sports. The manual training connected with our schools, if rightly conducted, will largely take the place of gymnasium.” — 5T, p.523

Early Days of our Schools

When the first college was established in Battle Creek, this subject of competitive sports was addressed. It was a steep learning curve as the churches and colleges were established. It surely did need God to give the counsel for these last days, as the world had a strong influence. But as the church settled, more truth was revealed and this letter shows the willing spirit to learn. This letter is from W. W. Prescott, principal of Battle Creek College when he replied to a letter from Ellen White.

“I wish to say that the reproof given us in reference to our games, and the spirit which was in the work last year, it is timely and appreciated. The evening after your letters arrived, I had a special meeting of the faculty and read these things to them... We have decided to have no more match games of any kind on the grounds. Our recreation will be planned in such a way as to give the physical benefit desired without arousing up a spirit of contest, and without having it on the basis of athletic sports.” —Letter to E.G. White, October 5, 1893

This gave direction to the schools and colleges that were built afterwards. Standards were set and the church upheld these for many years. There is also fairly strong counsel on spending time teaching young people games that could be used in educating them in the scenes that are just in front of us.

“The time is altogether too full of tokens of the coming conflict to be educating the youth in fun and games.” — 1 SM, p.133

“Have not the playing of games and rewards, and the using of the boxing glove be educating and training after Satan's direction to lead to the possession of his attributes? What if they could see Jesus, the Man of Calvary looking upon them in sorrow, as was represented to me. Things are certainly receiving a wrong mold, and are counteracting the work of the divine power which has been graciously bestowed. The work of every true Christian is to represent Christ, to reflect light, to elevate the standard of morals, and by words and influence consecrated to God, to compel the careless and reckless to think of God and eternity. ” – 1SM, p.132

In frivolous fun and games, we do need to take stock of what is the value and outcome of these. Is it innocent fun, or is there a more sinister plot behind many of these sports and games? Are they for our gain only,  to the extent of gaining at someone else's loss?

“While the youth are becoming expert in games that are of no real value to themselves or to others, Satan is playing the game of life for their souls, taking from them the talents that God has given them...He seeks to engross and absorb the mind so completely that God will find no place in the thoughts... One of the surest safeguards against evil is useful occupation.” –—CT, p.274,275

“The powers of Satan are at work to keep minds diverted from eternal realities. The enemy has arranged matters to suit his own purposes. Worldly business, sports and fashions of the day – these things occupy the minds of men and women.” —9T, p.43

Physical Exercise

Even though physical exercise is essential to the function of our system, we should not just presume that any recreation/amusement is justifiable in God's eyes.

“Young men and young women should not think that their sports, their evening parties, and musical entertainments, as usually conducted, are acceptable to Christ. Light has been given me, again and again, that all our gatherings should be characterized by a decided religious influence.” —MYP, p.391

General Conference MV Department Counsel on Sports, originally published 1950's. “Competitive games motivated by rivalry engender jealousy, envy or hatred. (Ed, p.210,211). They expel the Holy Spirit from the heart. (CT, p.348). It is not best, therefore to maintain regular 'teams' which carry over rivalries from one time to another. There are some kinds of amusements in which the Christian will refuse to share...”

“He (the Holy Spirit) will refuse to attend or to participate in those games and exhibitions which numb the impulse of Christian courtesy and kindness, and which tend towards brutality as – organised boxing, prize fighting and wrestling, cock fighting, dog fighting, bull fighting, organized football, etc.”

“He will not attend those matched games which excite players and observers alike and cause them to forget God and the realities of life.” Specifically mentioned are tennis, cricket, baseball, etc.” (CT,  p.456,350; Ed, p.210; TM, p.84)  “Infatuation with games of this kind is a species of idolatry.” (CT, p.350) “Those amusements, which are intensely absorbing counteract the working of the Holy Spirit.” —MYP  p.213,371

“He (the true Christian) will shun all commercialized sports and amusements because they exploit the devoted financially and morally. The spirit of the commercialized game is much like the spirit of war. The devotee...is merely a more or less excited observer who pays for a thrill. Gambling is a concomitant sport.

“Commercialized amusements take on a worldly, careless, pleasure-loving crowd. He will not engage in social dancing, which is a 'school of depravity.' In this category must be included skating in the public skating rink, which more and more is taking on the character of the public dance hall.” —MYP, p.398,399,392 (General Conference Young People's Department Pamphlet, The Young People's Worker's Aid No.24, The Teaching of the Spirit of Prophecy Concerning Recreation and Amusement, p.3 (undated Pamphlet but issued in the 1950's).


This is a topic which has drawn a lot of attention over the years. Some of the attention is unwanted attention. The dress often worn for swimming is brief and revealing, drawing the eye of others to the attention of the wearer. For men, to see a woman in brief attire is a powerful temptation. Some swimming attire is more brief than some under clothing that should remain in the bedroom or bathroom. Is it any wonder there is a struggle to keep the mind and thoughts pure. It is not only the dress of the women, but men also need to be conscious of their swim-wear as well to avoid being a stumbling block to women.

 Both Bible and Spirit of Prophecy give very clear counsel to how we should conduct ourselves.
“...women adorn themselves with modest apparel...” — I Tim 2:9

“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” — I Thess 5:22

“God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” — Gen 6:5

“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” — Matt 24:37
“...whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” — Matt 5:28


“Our example and influence must be a power on the side of reform. We must abstain from any practice which will blunt the conscience or encourage temptation. We must open no door that will give Satan access to the mind of one human being formed in the image of God.” — 5T, p.360

“’Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ This commandment forbids not only acts of impurity, but sensual thoughts and desires, or any practice that tends to excite them.” — PP, p.308

“Showy, extravagant dress too often encourages lust...” — 4T, p.465

When Loma Linda students urged construction of a swimming pool, Ellen White stated, “The swimming pool may be an advantage health-wise, but all along as proposals have been made in various places to provide swimming pools, it has been  presented to me that there is a great danger of the developments of unfavorable and serious difficulties. In no case could I consent to a swimming pool being established which should be under the control of an organization of students. If there is to be a swimming pool, it should be under control of the institution. Such an enterprise would need to be cared for by persons wisely chosen who will superintend the use of the place with Christian vigilance.” —6Bio, p.373,374

Well, there is some very clear counsel in these pages and quotes. As we come to the festive time of the year, we can enjoy ourselves and rest the mind on active and creative exercise, but not to take them to excess and have a sorrow and guilt of demoralising someone else, or ourselves.

Enjoy your time with family and friends and may the coming new year be blessed and profitable for each one.

Based on The Time of the End, by James Hayward, p.548-551