“Is watching tv bad or sin?”
“I like watching tv. I like movies, shows… you name it. I tell myself its like reading a good book plus its nothing dirty. But lately i would rather spend time by my tv then read my Bible. Should i be worried or is it something that will pass?”
The short answer is: you should definitely be worried. The longer answer is that the Word of God is infinitely more important to your life and the development of your priorities, your character, your identity. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to shape a Christian and mold him or her into the very image of Christ. When it comes to television, film, or other types of multimedia entertainment or story telling Christians are often found on varying ends of the spectrum of what is normative or allowable. Some go as far as to say that all television should be banished and destroyed (people from my native country, the Ukraine, often tell stories of throwing away their television which they affectionately call “idol”.) Others are found on the opposite spectrum and spend a far greater amount of time with the flashing screen than their own children. I think that a better and more discerning approach should be used. Pastor Driscoll often teaches that there are three ways to partake in culture, receive, reject, and redeem. Let me better explain these:
1. Receive something as good, like the television screen itself which has been used to spread the Gospel, and view priceless memories of childhood..
2. Reject something as bad, like pornography videos which are always harmful and damage ones view of sexuality.
3. Redeem something that has been used sinfully but can be used properly, like storytelling which can be used to glorify sin or God.
STORYTELLING AND MEDIA IS NOT SIN
Some people think that the use of storytelling in any form is always sin, wrong, and should be avoided by all Christians. However, the bible is quite clear and liberal in its use of stories and storytelling to convey large moral truths.
The use of storytelling in the bible
Surprisingly the bible is full of stories and tales. Many are real historical accounts that are described and recorded for the benefit of future readers. Others are made up to illustrate points and ideas that a simple statement can sometimes obscure. The most prolific storyteller in the bible is actually Jesus, the Son of God, Himself! There are at least 37 parable, allegories, or stories that Jesus tells in order to teach some vital point. Some of these may have been true, others, such as the sheep and the goats, were clearly just allegories. The great judgment does not include real sheep and real goats (where are all the other animal?) Yet Jesus used stories to teach large concepts and themes. It’s interesting to see that the majority of Christ’s stories were farming or fishing related, as this was the most relevant to a culture of fishers/farmers. Turns out Jesus not only used stories to teach (of hide) the truth, he also molded these stories to be applicable to the specific culture.
The use of fantasy in the bible
The majority of the stories Jesus told were quite simple and physically plausible, except a few like Lazarus and the Rich man. However, the rest of the bible has many interesting uses of language including fantasy storytelling, to teach grand concepts. Take for example the genre of “apocalyptic literature” which if found in some of the Old Testament prophets, and most notably in the book of Revelation. We see a story unfold of an age old enemy a great beast, a great dragon which seeks to devour a child. Throughout this book we are given many different images which come together to allegorically tell the story of good versus evil, of a great antichrist and his armies that seek to devour the saints, and a triumphant King who defeats and slays the great red dragon. Surely a great deal of medieval dragon vs knight literature was actually spawned by the bible. Ironically, a movie of the book of Revelation might be dismissed by many Christians as having too much fantasy, nonetheless, it is precisely the method and imagery the Holy Spirit chose to tell His story.
The use of graphic depictions in the bible
Besides storytelling in general and including forms such as fantasy stories, the bible also uses graphic and vivid descriptions of sin and tragedy. A quick tour of the Old testament will reveal many occasions of explicit violence, promiscuous sexuality, and other things that christian society deems vulgar or deranged. See for example (Genesis 34:1-31, 38:8-10; Num 25:6-9; Deut 25:11-12; Exo 4:24-25, Jud 3:19-25; 1 Samuel 18:25-27; Eze 16:17, 23:19-20; there are thousands of passages filled with violence, sexuality, and sin.) Here is the really big idea, the bible briefly describes sin and sinners, and shows their judgment because of their sin. All of the above are pieces of a story in which sinful men, women, and nations receive their just reward of punishment. The bible does not think it too vulgar to describe some of these things, however, the main point is that it doesn’t glorify or portray sin as good, but shows it as something which reaps terrible rewards. So for someone to say the bible mentions promiscuous sexuality (right before mentioning the judgment of death for it) so therefore I will watch promiscuous movies (because I like hot chicks) is completely missing the context. However, God deemed it allowable to briefly show sin as part of the story of judgment, therefore I don’t think its bad for other media to mention or show it, but only if it’s not glorified and normalized.
A LACK OF BIBLE STUDY MAKES ONE DIM
However, while some types of television programs and cinema may be in the receive or redeem category, not reading the Scripture is far more dangerous than any type of television program.
Avoiding scripture leads to dim life
The Word of God is the most stimulating book, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. It contains the very word of God, and contains within it all that is necessary for salvation and eternal life. Obviously, we don’t want to underemphasize the importance of the bible. RC Sproul once had a student tell him that “sir you make the bible come alive” to which Sproul wisely replied “no son, the bible make me come alive.” This is indeed true, the scriptures makes one alive, truly alive, and able to see life as God envisioned it. Without the scripture your life will be dim, intellectually, meaning your ideas and thoughts will be severely limited and fixated the physical world. Emotionally dim, meaning you will feel a darkness or depression from being emotionally unfulfilled. And Spiritually dim, meaning you life will seem depressing without directions from your Creator
Avoiding scripture leads to aimless life
The Word of God literally tells us our purpose in life. You were created with a purpose in mind, the bible reveals that purpose, and daily reading will continually expose your place in God’s plan layer by layer. On the other hand if you stop reading the bible, you will feel like your life is aimless and serves no useful function. This will likely lead to depression and dimness as seen above.
Avoiding scripture leads to unfruitful life
The Word of God stimulates us to help and love our neighbors and teaches us the many ways we can to this service. If you are not reading the bible you are slowly slinking back into selfishness and paying more attention to self rather than others. Conversely, being filled with the scripture daily will prepare you not only to serve with your life, but have an answer to many differing issue that people around you are struggling with. If you don’t read about Gods comfort for those who are suffering, you cannot be that comfort to those who are suffering in your vicinity. Being saturated with scripture leads to fruitfulness.
A PROPER DIET CONSISTS OF PROPER PRIORITIES
However, life cannot be made up of eight hours of full time bible study, and indeed even the most prolific bible scholar would need a break. It’s only logical, and biblical, that life involve constant changes, cycles and ordered priorities.
We should avoid poisons
While Jesus rebukes the pharisaical teaching that external things defile a man, and instead teaches that the real evil is inside a man (Mark 7:21-22), to view evil things and receive satisfaction from them would prove that your inside is evil. The bible warns us to avoid thinking about (Romans 13:14), watching (Psa 101:3) or doing/enjoying sin and to dwell on alternates (Phil 4:8). Things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy, we should contemplate and learn from. Some stories in our culture stem from the common grace God gives everyone and portray truths that are lovely and noble, others may give praise or attention to glorifying sin and wickedness. A Christian is called to use discernment, and as evidence that he is truly saved, avoid things that don’t vilify but instead glorify sin.
But eat our daily bread
When Jesus was on the earth in the flesh, he taught of God’s word being equivalent to “bread” (Matthew 4:4; Luke 11:3 ). The interesting contrast is that while Jesus is the living water which once and for all quenches thirst (Jesus once and for all time make one righteous) he is also the Daily Bread. His word is that bread which he teaches his followers to pray for, daily. We were created and designed to be in community with our Creator and we do this by hearing his Word, which is recorded in scripture, and responding to it with faith, trust, and prayer.
In the beginning God created work and rest. He didn’t just leave it there, he also created a cycle of doing and relaxing. The first cycle is daily, work, eat, relax, sleep, and repeat. The second cycle is the Sabbath, work all the other days, but this whole day take it easy and spend time thanking God and relaxing. The whole idea is that God doesn’t want you to do the same thing all of the time. If someone is always eating it’s a sin (gluttony), if someone is always working it’s a sin (failure to honor Sabbath), if someone is always sleeping it’s a sin (sloth). We can apply this cycle idea towards consuming entrainment. If you are only watching TV but not fulfilling other more important parts of your life, it causes you to have an unfruitful life.
The bible says there are different times for different things, and the main thing is to discern the proper time for the proper thing. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)