The other day I had an interesting encounter with someone who claimed fiction is a waste of time. Now, before dismissing this comment as words from a bumbling idiot, I must ensure you that the exact opposite is the case. He is an intelligent, God-fearing man. As such, I believe that his comment cannot be swept under the rug. It’s a good question and one that I’ve been thinking about lately. So, let’s find out, is fiction a waste of time?
Sometimes people don’t like to use that “P” word; they equate the word pleasure with sensuality, enticement, and things that must be avoided. But, we must remember that God is the Creator of pleasure. He created sex, food, music, and everything else that is beautiful and enjoyable. It’s only when we take those pleasures outside of what God prescribes in His Word that we fall into sin. Food is awesome, but when you decide eat to the point where your stomach is exploding (much like a middle school boy), you may be leaning towards gluttony. Sex is awesome, but when you decide to break God’s parameters and engage in premarital sex, homosexuality, or a list of other relations that are prohibited in the Word, then you are falling into sexual sin.
If you enjoy reading fiction, why would it be considered a waste of time? Now, I’m not saying to read fiction all day long and never accomplish anything else, but if you are one who reads fiction for sheer enjoyment after a long days work, on vacation, or even just in your leisure time, then go for it! You are enjoying the creative art of another person that mirrors God’s ultimate creativity. The sub-creators (authors), in this way, are pointing you towards the Ultimate Creator, God.
2) Cultural Expansion
Non-fiction is great to read; I’m not downplaying that at all. However, fiction often offers the spirit of certain matters whereas non-fiction offers the law. In other words, fiction is like bringing a person to see the Mona-Lisa, but non-fiction is a person who merely describes what the Mona-Lisa looks like. In this way, fiction can offer you a wider horizon of cultural knowledge. You can, for all its worth, become a 19th century runaway slave, a woman who loses her only child, or a man who saves the day and rescues the princess. You begin seeing through the eyes of the characters; you are sucked into their world.
3) Revealer of Truth
Very similar to cultural expansion, Fiction has the power to have us experience the truth in a way that non-fiction is usually unable to do. It’s no wonder, then, that Jesus often conveyed great truths by telling stories (like parables). He could have just stated what he wanted them to learn, but he thought it necessary to convey His truth through storytelling. If this still doesn’t convince you, think for a moment of some of the best sermons you have listened to in the last few months. Did the pastor merely convey information, or did he peak your interest by showing you the information through illustrations, poetries, or even through a literary reference (maybe about a certain lion named Aslan?).
So, is fiction a waste a time?
Fiction should not be downplayed as the red-headed-stepchild of literary genres. It’s useful, beautiful, and fun. Don’t misunderstand me, though; in esteeming fiction highly I am not demeaning non-fiction. They both have their place. In fact, I believe you should have a well-rounded diet of both! Time reading fiction is time well spent. You can quote me on it.