In its 70ish year cultural history, the television has displayed more images, broadcasted more news, changed more history, spawned more controversy, perverted more minds, educated more intellects, birthed more stars, made more money, and individually affected more people than we probably know. For good or ill? For better or for worse? These kinds of questions plunge us into a morass of mudslinging, vitriole, passion, anger, and spilled ink. But it does do us good to occasionally bring up the TV issue, ask a few questions, suggest a few biblical guidelines, and reevaluate our behavior in light of our life goal—bringing glory to God.
Numbers Don’t Lie
First of all, hang on for some statistics. While they may be a bore, statistics give us some eyebrow-raising insights into the effect of TV. The “average American,” whether or not you are one, watches 4+ hours of TV every day. If you crunch some numbers, that leads to a jaw-dropping nine straight years of TV watching during a 65-year life. 56% of all Americans shell out generous gobs of cash every month for a cable subscription. And what kind of information is being transmitted through all the flat screens and television sets across the U.S.? By the end of elementary school, the average child has witnessed 8,000 murders on TV. Throw into the mix indecency, foul language, sex acts, and other violence, and you have a childhood (not to mention adult) population exposed to, hooked on, and gazing at sinful behavior every day.
If these numbers are true (and they probably are), it should lead to a response. No, the TV is not inherently sinful, and yes, there is a lot of good that can be seen on TV. However, I look at these statistics, and I wonder, “Are evangelical Christians part of the statistic-making crowd? Are they watching as much TV, hearing as much profanity, seeing as much indecency, and staring at as much violence as anyone else?”
I sure hope not.
But I’m afraid this is a vain hope. Sadly, Christians are all too quick to follow the sinful excesses of the culture. And, yes, there is a lot of sinful excess that goes on with TV watching.
Legalism and Libertarianism: Killers
By now, those who read this article may be a bit hot under the collar, a bit embarrassed, or a bit defensive. And I understand. But this is not your typical “TURN OFF THE TV STUPID!!!!” tirade. Rather, like many of the articles written for this blog, it is a plea to think. It is a plea to think biblically. Part of our thinking biblically should have to do with the issue of legalism. The Christian life often presents the challenge of straying into legalism. Legalism neglects true grace by believing that rule-keeping and standard-setting is a means to godliness. On the other hand there are those who tend to libertarianism, voluntarily indulging in sinful behavior under a false pretense of grace. Both are wrong. Both are damaging. Both will kill true spirituality.
How Much TV Is Too Much TV?
The television question is one that needs to be carefully answered by each Christian. The Bible, not your favorite author or preacher is in a position stipulate the amount of TV watching that you engage in. You, as an individual believer before God, should prayerfully surrender this issue to God’s authority. You may wish to ask these yourself these questions.
- Does TV watching stir up temptations or dangerous desires?
- Does TV watching consume a lot of time that I could spend doing other more productive things?
- Is TV having a negative affect on my family?
- Is TV harming my walk with God?
- Are there more wholesome forms of entertainment that I could engage in?
Don’t Waste Your TV.
If you have a TV, don’t waste it. Watching television, carefully monitored, judiciously limited, and diligently screened, may give you additional knowledge of creation, mankind, and God. It may also provide a form of relaxation for you. However, you use your TV, make sure you are using it as Jesus would use it.