How to Watch TV and not Feel Guilty

Christian circles tend to criticize TV as “a waste of time”.  Not just TV, bu also movies, video games as well as now Youtube, Facebook, and Google.  It appears the more spiritual person throws away such unnecessary hindrances in favor of prayer, Bible reading, intimate fellowship, anything non-electronic, reminiscing that of the Stone (Renaissance?) Age.  After all the saying goes, “only Jesus satisfies”.  So then, this man-made invention called “entertainment” is more of a distraction than help in the long-run of our personal health.  But is that truly the case?

There is some truth to this.  My friend Brian Yu writes about the benefits of living in “Simplicity: Why I don’t watch tv anymore”.  Simplicity is needed in our approach to faith.  Jesus even commended child-like modesty and humility (Matthew 18:2-5).  We should just take God at his word.  So then, promoting simplicity in our lives by removing conflicting voices can help us communicate with God better.  Also, John Piper’s post on  “You Can’t Serve God and Entertainment” stresses the danger of making an idol out of entertainment to which it is impossible to serve two masters.

There needs to be balance though.  I believe there is a danger when we develop too much of a distaste for entertainment.  It’s when we start thinking that everything material is bad, and that everything spiritual is good that we have a problem.  Way back in the times of Jesus, this type of thinking was called gnosticism.  The idea that our (good) soul was trapped in a material (bad) corrupted world, and to escape this world by denying the pleasures of this world via spirituality was good.

It’s the view that entertainment itself is completely corrupt, bad, devoid of meaning where we go wrong.  Yes it is tainted with sin, but entertainment in itself is morally neutral.  For that matter, even food, wine, and money are not bad in themselves.  It’s whether we use them for God-glorifying purposes or for our own selfish ones.  As it says in Colossians 3:17

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him

In addition, entertainment can be a way of entering into God’s rest.  After a long-day at work, God has designed us to do something other than work itself.  It’s called rest.  While I’m not to say bible reading is “work”, but God has given us freedom to be creative in the way we find rest.  For example, one thing I love doing when I’m resting is playing Chess.  “But isn’t that stressful” you may ask?  Not at all, it helps keep my brain at work, keeps me in community with others, and it reminds me about the importance of sportsmanship. And when his Spirit reminds me that times up, I can pick up my Bible with a refreshed mind rather than a dulled one.

TV and media can be a great asset if used wisely and critically.  There are a lot of great movies out there which can show us how to love our spouses and neighbors.  Even if they aren’t Christian produced, you can watch a drama like Cinderella Man to learn about self-sacrifice or a kung-fu action like Ip Man to learn about humility.  We can critically analyze a TV show to learn about the arts such as movie production and good music.  Just take a scene from Star-Trek Voyager’s last episode and tell me how many parallels you see with the gospel in terms of comradery, the difficulty of the Christian walk, and how its “not about the destination, but the journey”.

You see, you can either mindlessly watch a show, or deeply engage with it.  The former is like stuffing yourself with potato chips – you don’t do anything but take junk into your system.  The latter is like slowly drinking fine chardonnay – you enjoy all its flavors while taking in its easy richness.   I have met many spiritual Christians who have a deep mastery of entertainment knowledge without letting it rule over them.  It’s when you can pull out the gospel truths out of a book, movie, show, youtube clip and apply them to your life that you’ll find real meaning.

Here are some practical suggestions when you’re watching TV:

  • Watch shows that don’t glorify sin
  • Watch a diversity of genres, ask friends what they watch and go outside your boundaries
  • Watch Christian movies – I recommend ones from NEST entertainment and The Bible Collection
  • Try to draw parallelisms with your own Christian walk and the Bible
  • Limit your watching and don’t go past bed-time to finish a show

Do you agree or disagree?  Please leave a comment below.

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2 thoughts on “How to Watch TV and not Feel Guilty

  1. Great conversation point, Derek. I certainly believe, as you said, that there’s a way to watch TV while glorifying God. It doesn’t always have to end up being a guilt trip every time we turn on the flat screen. But within North American Christianity in general, I somehow feel that we need to at least cut back on our TV time (and other forms of entertainment) in favor of doing more things for God (things that I feel we don’t do enough of). I certainly feel guilty if I’ve spent two hours watching TV and haven’t gotten around to praying or reading my Bible or encouraging a friend. And perhaps I should rightly feel guilty for once again side-stepping the really important things in life. But if a person is able to “balance” it all, then a little TV for recreation shouldn’t drive them guilty.

    P.S. I always look forward to reading your blog every Friday.

    Like

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