As mentioned in the last post, watching television in and of itself is not necessarily wrong, yet there are certain times when it is clearly sin. In this article, I want to look at four instances in which time in front of the tube damages your relationship with God.
1. When it becomes a stumbling block.
This may take many forms. Ladies, let’s say a certain show has a male character whom you find yourself drawn to. You imagine having a relationship with him, you start comparing your husband to him, and thoughts of him lead you down the road of discontentment. Or men, perhaps you find yourself continually lusting after a certain beautiful actress. Or it may not be a person at all that makes you stumble; it could be that reruns of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous have left you with an idolatrous longing for “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” In other words, if you detect a pattern of sin—whether discontentment, lust, or covetousness—centered upon a certain television show or commercial, then you need to cut it off. To paraphrase the words of Jesus, if your television show or your DVD causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame or without entertainment, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. (Matthew 18:8).
2. When it defiles your mind.
I doubt many of you would argue that watching pornography is good and acceptable in God’s sight; however, the fact that the MPAA doesn’t give it an X rating does not mean that it passes God’s standards. So often, Christians will take the posturing that if such and such an act on television doesn’t bother them and they can ignore or overlook it, then they can watch it. But the better question would be “Should it bother me?” For instance, should your mind be bothered by a show whose premise is a bunch of married women attempting adultery, even if its contents are deemed clean enough for prime time? What about the entertainment shows which exist to deliver the latest Hollywood gossip? Or shows that celebrate an evil message, making homosexuality and other sins that are offensive to God seem delightful and humorous? Perhaps the show has a nice moral tone and, after making you wade through a sea of flesh, concludes that adultery is bad. A good message with an evil method is still evil. When watching television we should bear in mind the words of David in Psalm 101:3 “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.” If God hates it, and Christ died for it, then we have no business being entertained by it.
3. When you neglect your God-given responsibilities to watch it.
This happens when television becomes so important to you that it edges out your spiritual priorities. Your love for a particular show or set of characters leads you to see them as your “television family”: you plan your week around them, think about them constantly, relax with them, and look to them for your greatest source of joy and laughter—and they’re not even real! Your television family does not need you, but your real family and your spiritual family do. If television in any way interferes with your responsibilities as a believer, then it is sin. Husbands, can you honestly love your wife as Christ loved the church and wash her with the water of the word when your time at home is primarily spent watching television (Eph. 5:25-30)? Mothers, can you shepherd your little ones and raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord with your eyes (and theirs) glued to the tube (Tit. 2:4)? Christian, can you make time to read the word daily (1 Pet. 2:2), engage in fellowship with others (Heb. 10:24), use your spiritual gift to serve the body (1 Pet. 4:10), and pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) when you watch three to four hours of television a day? If television prohibits you from obeying God’s commands for your life, stop watching it.
4. When It Erodes Your Affection for God.
This is an extremely subtle effect of television. In Colossians 3:1, the apostle Paul commands “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Christ is to consume us, He is to dominate our thoughts, He alone is to be our passion and the object of our pursuit. Those familiar with fire know that it either grows or dies. Whether you douse a fire with water or simply withhold fuel, it will burn out. In the same way, watching television may douse your passion for the Lord immediately by soliciting you to sin; or it may slowly starve your passion by prohibiting you from feeding it. As we all know, it is rather difficult to read the Bible or commune with God in prayer while parked in front of a TV, and even away from the tube many Christians spend more time thinking about the plotline of their favorite show than about the Lord. We would do well to heed Susanna Wesley, who said “Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”
The solution to each of these sins is simple: turn off the television. The joy that is found in obeying, delighting in, and communing with the Lord dwarfs any pleasure brought about by the amusements of the world.