How to Know If a Media Choice Is Wise
Don't you wish that the Bible came with some amendments concerning modern media? I mean, wouldn't it be great if God released a quarterly statement that told us exactly what TV shows, movies, songs, and websites He approves of and which ones He wants us to steer clear of?
That may sound nice, but there are reasons why God doesn't give us hard and fast rules about our media choices. One reason is that God isn't particularly fond of rules. I know this because of how annoyed He was with the Pharisees. The Pharisees were rule followers for sure. They did everything the Old Testament commanded. But they didn't love the Lord. They were motivated by pride, perfection, or elitism, not passion for living to please the Lord. We're not crazy about rules, either. When God gives us specific parameters (such as honor your father and mother) we get as close to the line without stepping over as possible and then think of a million scenarios when it's okay to break the rule.
God knew what He was doing when He left the decisions about what we should watch, read, and listen to up to us. But in case you haven't noticed, in the world of modern media there are plenty of landmines. It can be tough to know which choices to make in order to best protect our hearts, minds, and witness for Christ.
Over the years I have found two biblical principles to be extremely helpful as I seek to make wise media choices. In fact, they have helped me so often that I thought I should pass them on to you.
1. Permissible vs. Beneficial
I often hear: "Is this song okay?" "Is that movie okay?" "Should I be doing this online?" I understand the desire to have things spelled out in black and white, but when it comes to media choices, it isn't that simple.
In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul said, "‘All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be enslaved by anything." In 1 Corinthians 10:23, he wrote, "‘I have the right to do anything' you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything'—but not everything is constructive" (NIV).
You can make an argument that most media choices are "okay" if you want to. There might be some redeeming moments in a movie that is largely garbage. There might be some biblical themes in a book that contains questionable themes. Is secular media allowed for Christians? Sure. But Paul encourages us to ask more important questions.
When you're faced with a difficult media choice ask:
- Is this helpful to me?
- Is this a movie, book, song, or website that I find it difficult to get away from? (i.e. does it enslave me?)
- Is this beneficial?
- Is this constructive?
What we watch does impact how we think. Proving that point is a different topic for a different day. For now, you will just have to take my word for it. So if what we watch, read, and listen to affects how we think, how should that impact our media choices?
I have found it helpful to apply what I call "the whatever principle" when I am facing a media choice with questionable content.
Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
We love to watch movies at our house. I've learned that I can't count on ratings to clue me in to whether or not a movie is clean or not. So I typically read an online review of the movie and then ask myself a series of questions based on this passage.
I think, Will this movie cause me to think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise? If not. I try to move to a different pick.
In short, most media choices are technically allowed for Christians, but they aren't all beneficial and they certainly don't all cause our thoughts to dwell on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. I've found that when I apply these two principles to my media choices, I am less apt to watch, read, and listen to things that turn my thoughts away from the things of God and put strain on my spiritual walk.
So what steps do you take to make sure your media choices are wise? What tools has God given you to help you navigate the minefields that have been placed by pop culture and keep your thoughts fixed on Him?
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