CHILDREN AND YOUTH LIKE TO HAVE FUN
When Christian parents think of the welfare of their children, they usually think of protecting them from harmful influences and motivating them to develop habits that will help them to progress in society. So they will give considerable attention to moral instruction and education. However, there are other vital aspects of healthy growth that they should not ignore. One of these is the need for children and youth to enjoy healthy fun during their growing up years.
Talking about the coming peace and prosperity of Jerusalem, Zechariah says, “And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets” (Zech. 8:5). Jesus used a picture of children playing in the streets for one of his parables. The game was probably mock weddings which included dances in response to the playing of the flute (Matt. 11:16-17). While there are no references to toys in the Old Testament archaeologists have found “whistles, rattles, marbles, dolls, animals (at times with wheels), and other objects on numerous sites in Palestine [which] give some indication of the types of toys with which the Israelite young played.” We can safely say that fun was an important feature of the life of children in biblical times.
I often tell parents of little children that it may be more important for their children to play in their early years than to study. They can start studying when they start going to school. It is important that their childhood be one with pleasant memories including playing with family members and others. Parents should look for places with amusements for children and take them there frequently. They should carve out times in their schedules to play with the children. We may not feel like doing it, but it could be a great blessing to both the children and their parents. When my son was a child he would often ask me to play cricket with him. Most of the time I did not feel an inclination to do so. But out of a sense of duty I would go and play with him, and I always came back refreshed and glad that I had gone.
We should make our homes “fun-friendly” places. Sometimes we are so eager to keep our homes looking spick-and-span that we restrict the fun our children can have at home. That is not healthy. I know of families that have one wall in the house where the little children can scribble and draw. Our son loved to play cricket. But the place in our yard where he could play was near some windows and the ball could easily hit and break the window. One of our creative Youth for Christ staff made a cover for the windows with a wooden frame and wire mesh. That protected the windows and gave my son freedom to play without fear. Allowing them to play without fear is a key. If they have such positive attitudes to play, then they will be more open to our advice to stop at a certain time so as to come home and do homework. The freedom to play would not be something they have to fight to safeguard.
Ecclesiastes recognizes the inclination of youth to have fun and encourages them to give expression to it: “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes” (Eccles. 11:9a). Of course, it goes on to say, “But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (Eccles. 11:9b), showing that we must have fun in keeping with God’s principles—holy fun. Happiness is never the primary goal for our children; holiness is.
We often quote the statement given two verses later: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth (Eccles. 12:1b). But we forget the reason given for remembering ones Creator when young: “…before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Eccles 12:1b). The verses that follow show that the rationale for this appeal is that old people, with their aching backs and creaking bones, cannot enjoy life as young people do. Therefore, youth are told to remember their Creator at the age that they can enjoy themselves—for in companionship with the Creator of our capacity for fun we can have the best and most enjoyable kind of fun.
When children and youth grow up enjoying clean and healthy fun at home, they will not be as vulnerable to the lure of sinful fun which will soon hit them with great force. The world thinks that to have fun one must sin! I once saw a birthday card which said. “It’s your birthday. Enjoy yourself. Sin a little.” We need to demonstrate to our children that fun is compatible with Christianity; and that the only way to have really enjoyable fun is to do it along with God, the Creator of our capacity for fun. Certainly enjoying with their earthly parents is a good way to open the mind to the idea that they can enjoy with their heavenly Father.
With almost everything in life getting commercialized and subject to fierce competition, it is sad that sports and a lot of fun activities of children and youth have also gone that way. Sport does not function as a source of enjoyment to many who play today. Actually sport can become an idol in a child’s life. A child who is clearly talented in a sport should be encouraged to pursue that. But we should be careful about pushing our children too much here. Sometimes parents want their children to achieve the things that they could not achieve in their youth. So they apply pressure in an unhealthy way on their children to perform. Only 11 players and a few substitutes can get into a soccer team. That means most children are going to miss out. Parents should remember this and not put undue pressure on the child. They could end up causing the child to be deprived of a joyful character.
Sometimes sports practices, band and choir practices and other events take place on Sundays during Sunday school or worship time. Children miss being at church for a whole season. In Sri Lanka some children don’t come to church because they have to go to extra tutorial classes during church time. As Chip Ingram puts it, “That’s a great way to teach your children that being a star is more important than being a worshipper.” Parents must always remember the words of Jesus, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37).
Today children spend a lot of time at their computers. Games on the computer could replace physical games which are so necessary for healthy living. Children could withdraw into the cyber world and stay there for too long, harming themselves in the process. By spending so much time there they miss the benefits of playing in the outdoors which is good for physical health. Also playing in teams is good for general character building through the relationships and trials they experience on the field.
Parents should be aware of the ready access there is to pornography. This should influence where the computer is kept at home, so that they could spend long hours of unhelpful computer activity. They need to bring in restrictions and filters and accountability systems to ensure the children don’t ruin their lives. Such are available now and the price is well worth playing so as to protect our children. Children should be warned about polluting things that come on to their mobile phones. Sadly many young people ruin their marriages before they get married by watching things which pollute their minds. Pornography and computer games are extremely addictive and requires serious thinking by parents. Parents must not stay uninvolved saying that they don’t know about these things while their children ruin their lives. Because of our commitment to our children we should find out about these things and try to prevent harm coming to our children.
Satan has found ways of spoiling every good thing on earth. That is what he has done with fun. May God redeem fun in our lives and those of our children so that we can have the best kind of fun: holy fun!
 G. F. Hasel, “Games,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Vol. 2, p. 398.
 Chip Ingram, Effective Parenting in a Defective World (carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006), p. 33.