Ellen White answers some pointed questions on the subject of recreation.
[Question] SHALL WE UNDERSTAND BY WHAT YOU HAVE SAID IN YOUR TESTIMONIES IN FAVOR OF RECREATION, THAT YOU APPROBATE [approve] SUCH VAIN AMUSEMENTS AS CHESS, CHECKERS, CHARADES, BACK-GAMMON, HUNT-THE-WHISTLE, AND BLIND-MAN'S-BUFF? IT IS GENERALLY REPORTED IN THIS CONFERENCE THAT YOU HAVE TAKEN AN INTEREST IN THE AMUSEMENTS WHICH HAVE BEEN PRACTICED AT THE HEALTH INSTITUTE AT BATTLE CREEK, THAT YOU PLAY CHECKERS, AND CARRY A CHECKER-BOARD WITH YOU AS YOU VISIT THE BRETHREN FROM PLACE TO PLACE.
ISAAC SANBORN, ] H. C. BLANCHARD,] CONF. R. F. ANDREWS, ] COM.
“Since I professed to be a follower of Christ at the age of twelve years, I have never engaged in any such simple plays and amusements as named above. Neither have I at any time given my influence in their favor. I do not know how to play at checkers, chess, back-gammon, fox-and-geese, or any thing of the kind. I have spoken in favor of recreation, but have ever stood in great doubt of the amusements introduced at the Institute at Battle Creek, and have stated my objections to the physicians and directors, and others, in conversation with them, and by numerous letters.
“On pages 24-26 of Testimony No. 12, I have spoken of "Recreation for Christians," as follows:--
"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, yet still more essential for those whose labors are principally mental.
"I was shown that it is not essential to our salvation, nor for the glory of God, for us to keep the mind laboring, even upon religious themes, constantly and excessively. There are amusements which we cannot approve, because Heaven condemns them,--such as dancing, card-playing, chess, checkers, &c. These amusements open the door for great evil. Their tendencies are not beneficial, but their influence upon the mind is to excite and produce in some minds a passion for those plays which lead to gambling, and dissolute lives. All such plays should be condemned by Christians. Something should be substituted in the place of these amusements. Something can be invented, perfectly harmless.
“What kinds of recreation does heaven approve?”
"I saw that our holidays should not be spent in patterning after the world, yet they should not be passed by unnoticed, for this will bring dissatisfaction to our children. On these days when there is danger of our children partaking of evil influences, and becoming corrupted by the pleasures and excitement of the world, let the parents study to get up something to take the place of more dangerous amusements. Give your children to understand you have their happiness and best good in view.
"Let families unite together and leave their occupations which have taxed them physically and mentally, and make an excursion out of the cities and villages a few miles into the country, by the side of a fine lake, or in a nice grove, where the scenery of nature is beautiful. They should provide themselves with plain, hygienic food, and spread their table under the shade of a tree, or under the canopy of heaven provided with the very best of fruits and grains. The ride, the exercise, and the scenery, will quicken the appetite, and they can come around a repast which kings might envy.
"Parents and children on such occasions should feel as free as air from care, labors or perplexities. Parents should become children with their children, making it as happy as possible for them. Let the whole day be given to recreation. Exercise of the muscles in the open air, for those whose employment has been within doors and sedentary, will be beneficial to health. All who can, should feel it a duty resting upon them to pursue this course. Nothing will be lost, but much gained. They can return to their occupations with new life, and new courage to engage in their labor with new zeal. And such have gained much, for they are better prepared to resist disease." Pilot Grove, Iowa, Sept. 26, 1867 RH, October 8, 1867
Ellen White admitted in a personal letter to a young man that the simple exercise of playing ball may not be sinful in itself. But what did she say would be the almost sure result of doing it?
“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.
If we play these kind of Games at an Adventist Church or institution won’t we tend to play them the way heaven approves?
“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. . . .
“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 purpose. 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. . . . The Lord God of heaven protests against the burning passion cultivated for supremacy in the games that are so engrossing.” AH 499- 500
What will Satan seek to do in Adventism ?
“In each one of our schools Satan will seek to become the guide of teachers and students. He will introduce the thought that amusements are essential. He would be pleased to have students who are preparing to become missionaries, accept the idea that amusements are essential to health.
“But the Lord has provided a better way. He has given us useful employments for the development of health, and these useful employments will also qualify students to be a help to themselves and to others.”--Review and Herald, Vol. 75, No. 43, 1898.
But are not sports and games a great way of reaching out to the community?
“It began in the Sanitarium before Dr. Kellogg came into the institution. Persons who came there to board and room brought in chess playing and many other amusements. This was not right, and the Lord rebuked the management. Our Sanitariums are not to cater to the perverted tastes of worldly people. The same evils have existed in the Sanitarium on the hillside. A few years ago the managers made it more of a hotel than an institution for healing the sick. In the rooms of the guests could be seen the wine bottles that they had brought with them. The boarders indulged appetite for many harmful things. God was not at all pleased with the course pursued by the management in allowing such indulgence; for His purpose in the establishment of the institution was not being carried out. He sent light in regard to it, and the result was that some in leading positions withdrew. They said, "If we refuse to serve meat, we cannot hold the patrons." But whether patronage increases or decreases, right principles must be upheld in the Lord's institutions. In all our work we are to show the advantage of a health reform diet. Between us and the world there is to be a distinct line of demarcation.” KC 143
But does not the Bible give license for us to play games and sports?
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1
If we use this verse as justification for sports we may better be careful we don’t condone holy wars next because the Bible also says: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” 1 Tim 6:12 We know that this is not the case because it also says in 2 Cor. 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;”
Christians should blush at the afterthought of playing games!.
“Be sober, be vigilant" [not in kicking football and in educating yourselves in the objectionable games which ought to make every Christian blush with mortification at the afterthoughts] "be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Yes, he is on your playground watching your amusements, catching every soul that he finds off his guard, sowing his seeds in human minds, and controlling the human intellect. For Christ's sake call a halt at the Battle Creek College, and consider the after-workings upon the heart and the character and principles, of these amusements copied after the fashion of other schools. You have been steadily progressing in the ways of the Gentiles, and not after the example of Jesus Christ. Satan is on the schoolground; he is present in every exercise in the schoolroom. The students that have had their minds deeply excited in their games, are not in the best condition to receive the instruction, the counsel, the reproof, most essential for them in this life and for the future immortal life.” FE 225