The Bible and Wholesome Entertainment
Don’t expose yourself to ungodly movies, music, books and TV
Doug Britton, MFT
Introduction to potential dangers of secular entertainment
(This study on secular entertainment is one of a series of Bible studies dealing with cultural contamination. It is adapted from Defeating Temptation: Biblical Secrets to Self-Control.)
In the Bible, we read that Jesus offers us an abundant and joyful life.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
However, in our search for entertainment, enjoyment, and relaxation, we often unthinkingly accept the world’s idea of fun. If we aren’t careful, we can harm ourselves and our relationship with God.
Secular media and activities can be entertaining, educational, or uplifting. We don’t need to limit ourselves and only watch, read, or listen to things which are overtly Christian.
But we should carefully evaluate what we do for recreation and entertainment, and how these activities affect us.
A good guideline is to only engage in activities Jesus would approve. As John wrote:
Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)
Be aware of the dangers in secular entertainment
Much of the entertainment and literature in our society is ungodly. This doesn’t only apply to obvious material such as pornography. It also applies to many regular TV shows, videos, movies, books, magazines, and music.
Let’s take a look at some of the potential dangers from secular entertainment:
We can accept a secular picture of the world.
Much entertainment presents a false or incomplete picture of reality by leaving Christ out. Even if there are no negative references to Christianity, the picture of the world we expose ourselves to may ignore the most important element of truth—God.
It is like reading a book about how to survive in the wilderness that does not mention food or water.
If the main thing we fill our minds with are godless versions of reality, we can come to see the Bible and Christianity as irrelevant to human interactions and “religion” as only belonging in church (if anywhere).
We learn lessons that rarely work out in real life.
If you watch TV sitcoms, movies, or pornography, you may internalize a false picture of human relationships—a false picture that can harm your relationships. For example, if you watch movies with sex scenes, you may become upset because your spouse does not seem as romantic or sexy as the actors and actresses.
We often are not truly refreshed.
I used to spend a couple hours every night after work watching sitcoms and other TV shows, thinking I needed to relax and unwind. But I discovered that when I was done watching, I wasn’t truly relaxed, closer to my wife and children, or nearer to God. Instead, I felt like I was mildly drugged.
We can become cynical.
We can develop disrespect for pastors or Christianity since few movies or TV shows portray Christians or pastors in a positive light. Pastors and evangelists often are shown as greedy or as lunatics, or both.
We can develop impure sexual thoughts or lust.
The sexuality in much secular entertainment—and I’m writing about everyday entertainment, not just pornography—portrays sex in a dreadful way. It presents sex simply as an instinctive drive, or it makes adultery and other sexual sins appear romantic and wonderful.
When you expose yourself to these messages, your thoughts about sex are likely to become more like the world’s and less like God’s. You may fantasize about sexual sins.
If you are married, you may become dissatisfied with the way your spouse makes love. On the flip side, you may find yourself thinking that sex is ugly and distasteful and pull away from your mate.
We can learn to accept ungodly violence as okay.
In some instances, violence has an appropriate role in movies and TV shows. But the violent scenes we often see are brutal, sadistic, and ungodly. If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves accepting onscreen sinful violence, or even laughing at it.
Some of us may imitate the violent behavior we see in TV or the movies. I have counseled with many delinquent teenage boys who imitated the violence they saw on TV and in the movies.
We can become materialistic.
Most advertising has one purpose: to make you think you must buy something to be happy. Movies and TV shows often feature luxurious living and give the message that happiness comes from spending lots of money.
Avoid harmful entertainment
Ask God before you watch, listen to, or read something.
Don’t “fool” yourself or allow yourself to be careless. Study the Bile. Keep your spiritual eyes open.
I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. (Psalm 101:3)
Evaluate what you let into your spirit.
Do not put vile things before your eyes. Do not poison yourself.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
Do not violate the Bible or your conscience.
Paul gave timeless guidelines when he wrote:
Fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. (1 Timothy 1:18-19)
Don’t blindly follow society’s standards.
We sometimes watch questionable movies or listen to questionable music, thinking that since “everybody” else is listening or watching, it must be okay. Or we think something is acceptable simply because it’s not as bad as something else.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
Be honest with yourself. Would God want you to watch that movie or TV show? How does it really affect you? Let’s look at two common rationalizations.
— “I filter out the bad parts.”
This can be true to a degree, but repetitive exposure usually affects us. Further, the reason we watch or read questionable material often is because we want to enjoy things that we should not enjoy.
— “Christian media sometimes gets boring.”
If you are bored with Christian TV or radio shows, don’t let that be an excuse to watch or listen to unprofitable things. There are lots of other ways to spend your time.
Enjoy healthy activities and entertainment
When you choose entertainment activities, identify those that are good for you. The following is a short list of ideas. Check those that you would enjoy doing:
___ Make a great meal and share it with friends.
___ Watch a good video or movie.
___ Visit with friends.
___ Tell jokes.
___ Go to a musical or play.
___ Listen to uplifting music.
___ Go for a hike
___ Go camping.
___ Play tennis, golf, or another sport.
___ Sing or join a choir.
___ Play games with friends.
___ Learn to play a musical instrument.
___ Study the Bible.
___ Read a novel.
___ Read biographies.
___ Grow a garden.
___ Write emails, texts, or letters to friends.
___ Surprise a friend.
___ Start a hobby.
___ Watch a ball game.
Don’t spend too many hours on entertainment
When we spend too much time watching TV, surfing the Internet or engaging in sports or other activities, we often neglect our family and friends, and our relationships suffer.
Plus, we are not fulfilling God’s purpose for us. He wants us to develop our gifts and to reach out and minister to others. We are called to make a difference in this world, not to merely be spectators.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Be alert if you read or watch dangerous material
There may be times when it is appropriate to expose yourself to material that has ungodly elements. For example: studying in school, reading job-related material, watching plays, reading “great literature,” or staying aware of current events, trends, or thoughts.
When you do any of these things, ask God to help you respond in a proper manner. Ask him to protect your spirit and help you not accept ungodly actions, attitudes, or vocabulary as being okay.
Pray for wisdom and balance
Recreation is fine if it is part of a balanced life, but if you mainly live to have fun, you are missing out on God’s purpose for your life and the joy that comes from serving God and helping others. Set your mind on things above.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2)
Personal Application: Evaluate what you do for entertainment
Would Jesus enjoy what I enjoy? Yes/No
Would Jesus find the same jokes funny? Yes/No
Would Jesus read or watch the same things I do? Yes/No
Would Jesus listen to the same music? Yes/No
Would Jesus do the same things I do? Yes/No
What changes do you think God would like you to make in what you do or watch for entertainment?
What changes do you think God would like you to make in how much time you spend on entertainment?
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About Doug Britton, MFT
Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)
Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.