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Useful Occupation Better Than Games

I am very aware that suggesting useful occupations are better than games borders on heresy in some quarters. However, just because the thought is not favored does not mean it is wrong. 

I recall with much regret, my younger days, when I was attending a boarding school in Europe and joined other students in being insubordinate to the teachers and administration. The reason for the insubordination was a volleyball court where we often went to play, regardless of other responsibilities and appointments. We were especially disobedient when it came to playing during study hall in the evening. At the time I didn't consider our actions anything more than mischief, but now I realize we were giving a very bad example to other students, giving the faculty a very hard time and not doing as well in our studies. 

Since that time I have read a talk given at a little known denominational missionary volunteer and education conference was held in Colorado Springs in 1923, where one of the speakers pointed out that students would happily do manual labor if that was the only thing on the menu, but when games were introduced, the willingness to work faded. 

"During the fifteen years in which I have been putting my entire time to the vocational end of our school work, I have tried to get my students to find their recreation in the shop and on the farm. I find that games and learning to do things do not go together. Either they work or they play." S. A. Smith

Missionary Volunteer and Educational Conference, Colorado Springs, 1923

Many in our day have read accounts of the revivals at Battle Creek when the Holy Spirit was so active. Satan saw that it was a good time to introduce games. His desire was to diminish the spirituality of the students and he succeeded in quenching the revival.

"When the students at the school went into their match games 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 in molding and using the human subject."

Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 131.1

Recently I also read of an anniversary gathering at Avondale when seemingly innocent amusements such as three-legged races and tennis matches were organized for the students. The students were thrilled and the organizers sincerely felt they had done a good thing. But Ellen White thought otherwise and personally admonished the faculty and students that God was not as thrilled as they were. The principal was shocked, initially resisted what she was saying, but as he prayerfully looked up references to play in his Bible, he realized that for some students to win, it meant others would have to lose, and therefore probably wasn't something God could bless. 

"With his concordance, [Professor Hughes] searched his Bible. One of the first references he turned to related to the children of Israel, when they “sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor were other texts any more helpful. When he came to recognize that winning in games meant others must fail, he was led to conclude that the spirit of most games and sports was not the right spirit of the adult Christian. “These thoughts,” he declared, “brought me out of darkness into light, and I left behind me an experience which was a very trying one.”

Biography, Vol. 4, p. 443.7

Amusements are still an issue and I believe Satan continues to busily work under cover to amuse the students in our schools to diminish or entirely destroy their spirituality. 

Each person has to make a personal decision in this regard, and I am not saying that all recreation is bad. But we should have our eyes wide open and realize that Satan is working in this area too.

Of course the question comes, what alternatives are there? In the case of Avondale, she suggested work on the farm.  She also suggested that the students go and build houses for some of the poor people in the area, which some eventually did. 

"Is there not an abundance of work to be done on this farm where all the energy and tact would be turned to the most useful account in a good work?”

Biography, Vol. 4, p. 444.4

"All are to be rightly educated as in the schools of the prophets.... Let another teacher ... educate how to do work in helping some of the worthy poor about us. There are houses that can be built. Get your students under a man who is a builder and see if you cannot find something that can be done in the lines of education and in the lines of holiness."—Manuscript 92, 1900.

Biography, Vol. 4, p. 444.5

Here are some quotes from the article that got me thinking about useful occupations versus games. Write me if you would like to read more of it.


Useful Occupation Better Than Games

"There are plenty of necessary, useful things to do in our world that would make the pleasure amusement exercise almost wholly unnecessary. Brain, bone, and muscle will acquire solidity and strength in using them to a purpose, doing good hard thinking, and devising plans which shall train them to develop powers of intellect, and strength of the physical organs, which will be putting into practical use their God-given talents with which they may glorify God." – {1NL 97.2} ...

I do not condemn the simple exercise of playing ball; but this, even in its simplicity, may be overdone. I shrink always from the almost sure result which follows in the wake of these amusements. It leads to an outlay of means that should be expended in bringing the light of truth to souls that are perishing out of Christ. The amusements and expenditures of means for self-pleasing, which lead on step by step to self-glorifying, and the educating in these games for pleasure, produce a love and passion for such things that is not favorable to the perfection of Christian character. – {1NL 97.4}

"Every youth should ask himself: What influence will these amusements have on physical, mental, and moral health? Will my mind become so infatuated as to forget God? shall I cease to have His glory before me?"

Testimonies, Vol. 4, p. 652.1

The way that they have been conducted at the college does not bear the impress of heaven. It does not strengthen the intellect. It does not refine and purify the character. There are threads leading out through the habits and customs and worldly practices, and the actors become so engrossed and infatuated that they are pronounced in heaven, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. In the place of the intellect becoming strengthened to do better work as students, to be better qualified as Christians to perform the Christian duties, the exercise in these games is filling their brains with thoughts that distract the mind from their studies. – {1NL 97.5}

Now the same power of exercise of mind and muscle might invent ways and means of altogether a higher class of exercise, in doing missionary work which would make them laborers together with God, and would be educating for higher usefulness in the present life, in doing useful work, which is a most essential branch in education. – {1NL 97.6} ...

Let there be a company formed somewhat after the plan of the Christian Endeavor order, and see what can be done by each accountable human agent, in watching and improving opportunities to do work for the Master. He has a vineyard in which everyone can perform good work. Suffering humanity needs help everywhere. The students may win their way to hearts, by speaking words in season, by doing favors for those who need even physical labor. This will not degrade any one of you, and it will bring a consciousness of the approval of God. It will be putting the talents, entrusted to you for wise improvement, to the exchangers. It will increase them by trading upon them. – {1NL 98.3}

Beneficial Methods of Exercise
There are healthful methods of exercise that may be planned which will be beneficial to both soul and body. There is a great work to be done and it is essential that every responsible agent shall educate himself to do this work acceptably to God. There is much for all to learn, and there cannot be invented a better use for brain, bone, and muscle than to accept the wisdom of God in doing good, and adopting some human device for remedying the existing evils of this profligate, extravagant age. – {1NL 98.4}

"An enlightened, discriminating mind will find abundant means for entertainment and diversion, from sources not only innocent, but instructive."

Testimonies, Vol. 4, p. 653.

It is our duty ever to seek to do good in the use of the muscles and brain God has given to youth, that they may be useful to others, making their labors lighter, soothing the sorrowing, lifting up the discouraged, speaking words of comfort to the hopeless, turning the minds of the students from fun and frolic which often carries them beyond the dignity of manhood and womanhood to shame and disgrace. The Lord would have the mind elevated, seeking higher, nobler channels of usefulness. – {1NL 98.5}

The Dangers to Spirituality
Is the eye single to the glory of God in these games? I know that this is not so. There is a losing sight of God’s way and His purposes. The employment of intelligent beings, in probationary time, is superseding God’s revealed will, and substituting for it the speculations and inventions of the human agent, with Satan by his side to imbue with his spirit. Keep the Word of God close by your side. Guided by it you will be wise, you will be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. We must in these last days watch unto prayer. The Lord God of heaven protests against the burning passion cultivated for supremacy in the games that are so engrossing." – {1NL 98.6}


Relevant Thoughts from Church Leaders at the Convention in 1923

"In the matter of amusements we cannot expect to supply at all times the demand of our young people in making thrills for them, for already they are thrilled to an extent that is quite sufficient. The guiding principle is that we must educate the young people to that which is right." L. F. Thiel

"When the power of God has control in the life, that settles the whole thing. All these earthly thrills go without consideration. What we need is the vitalizing power of Him who fills our souls with a delight that is above these earthly pleasures that fill the life for a season." J. A. Burden

"During the fifteen years in which I have been putting my entire time to the vocational end of our school work, I have tried to get my students to find their recreation in the shop and on the farm. I find that games and learning to do things do not go together. Either they work or they play." S. A. Smith

"I think we ought to be careful that we get both sides of what the spirit of prophecy teaches, and follow it carefully, or we are going to drive our young people away from us instead of them."
 W. W Ruble

"It seems to me it is the craze after amusements, the love of excitement, the constant effort to find something to take the place of useful employment and helpful service, that is condemned in the spirit of prophecy." M. E. Kern


Relevant Amusement Resources

Guiding Principles in Recreation

S. A. Smith  

Volunteer Missionary and Educational Conference, Colorado Springs, CO, 1923  Click for PDF