The following words appeared in an advertisement in Newsweek magazine sometime ago: 

“It wasn’t the Goths that defeated Rome. It was the free circuses! Luxuries,  power, indulgence had made the once tough Roman people soft. To stay popular, their emperors gave them more and more of the ease they craved;  free bread,  free circuses, easier living. So the Romans softened up themselves for the ambitious, hard working barbarians.”

The firm that paid thousands of dollars to run this advert in Newsweek was justifiably alarmed by the soft life and easy living of today. They feared that an external enemy would be able to overcome and conquer the United States because of its internal weakness.

No cause for alarm?

True followers of Christ shouldn’t be alarmed about groups trying to dominate the world. We needn’t fear an outside enemy, because the Bible tells us about God’s plan and purpose with this earth. We know that nobody will be successful in any attempt to set up their own universal state because God has declared that the next worldwide kingdom will be Divine.

Nevertheless we should be alarmed about the soft life that caused the destruction of the Romans. The same lifestyle could very well lead to our personal destruction. God is not pleased with people who serve themselves instead of serving Him. Jesus told us:

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26 NKJV)

Strong words, which the Romans ignored. They carried on partying and circus-going, while their empire crumbled around them. Their time would have been better spent attending to more important things, particularly the ‘Good News’ some Romans were preaching.

One of the Roman preachers was the apostle Paul, who wrote the following words to the Christians in Rome:

“It is high time to awake out of sleep…cast off the works of darkness…walk properly…not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Romans 13:11-14 NKJV)

Time well spent?

Now comes the uncomfortable question. How do we spend our  time? Pleasing ourselves by indulging in the ‘free circuses’ which today have their counterpart in television, radio, cars, sport, holidays and so on. The list is endless and if we spend all our free time indulging in the things that please us, but exclude God from our lives, aren’t we following the example of the Romans and will reap the consequences?

Later, Paul was put in prison for the things he believed and was chained to a Roman soldier. That may have prompted his choice of words when he wrote to encourage a young Christian called Timothy:

“Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:3 NKJV)

Too much valuable time can easily be wasted by being “entangled with the affairs of this life”, even if they seem harmless. We may not have to “endure hardship” as a Christian, but we should be prepared to do so. It  all depends on who or what we love most.

If we love ourselves most of all, then we will continue to cater to ourselves and die in our sins, as most Romans did. But if we truly love God with all our heart, soul and mind, then we will spend more of our spare time doing Christ-like things…and avoid time-wasting ‘circuses’!