Question & Answer Forum: Television

I wonder if you could handle the subject of cursing on television that is so prevalent. I know that many Christians have televisions now, and it is an accepted thing, but the Lord’s name is often taken in vain.

What about the Christian and worldly entertainment? As access to digital media increases, the question of what is appropriate for a believer to view and listen to becomes increasingly relevant. We need to seriously ask ourselves, “What is appropriate for a Christian to occupy leisure time with?” Is the world’s entertainment, with all the profanity, vulgarity, and promotion of immorality which accompany it, acceptable for a child of God?

The matter of a child of God exposing himself or herself to ungodliness in any form in the name of “entertainment” should be questioned under several considerations. It is inconsistent with our call to holiness. Holiness is separation from sin in any and all forms. We read “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (1Thes 4:7). In verse 8, the apostle adds “He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit of God reminds us concerning our calling, “But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1Peter 1:15-16). Titus 2:11-12 reminds us, “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”

Exposing oneself to ungodliness is also incompatible with God’s revealed will. God has not left us in any doubt as to His will concerning our attitude toward sin, not only as committed by ourselves, but as manifest in the lives of others. “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Rom 12:9).

Romans 13:14 warns us, “make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” In Ephesians we are told to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith [we] are called” (Eph 4:1). Chapter 4:17-24 should be read thoughtfully to understand the will of God for our lives. Verse 17 states “that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind.” Verse 22 instructs “that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,” with verse 24 giving the balancing truth “that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

These truths remind us that salvation brought an end to our previous standing, and should bring a corresponding end to our old way of life. Ephesians chapter 5 continues to give instruction as to the will of God. The practices of “fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness” are not to be “once named among you, as becometh saints” (v3), yet these are very often the practices that permeate the entertainment world. Further, “filthiness,” “foolish talking” and “jesting” (v4) are declared to be inappropriate. These actions will bring the judgment of God upon those who die without a Savior (v6).

God’s will is expressed in verse 7. “Be ye not therefore partakers with them,” and in verse 11, “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” How can we justify using our time to “entertain” ourselves with the very things that will bring the judgment of God upon unbelievers? It is inconsiderate of the conscience of other believers. Often, believers justify their indulgence in off-color entertainment with the statement that “I feel that I have liberty to do this.” The question we should ask ourselves is not, “Is it lawful for me to do this?” but, “Will this help or hinder a brother or a sister in the Lord?” We may feel that “we can handle it,” but what about others? We don’t like the thought of having our conduct regulated by its effect on others, but that is the plain teaching of Scripture. Twice in 1 Corinthians 10 Paul balances the statement “all things are lawful for me” with a word of caution: “but all things are not expedient,” and “but all things edify not” (v23), and summarizes his instruction by the words, “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” (v24). The consistent teaching of the Word of God, especially as set out in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10, is that my life is to be regulated by whether my actions will benefit or harm my fellow believers. The words of Romans 14:19 give the positive principle to be followed, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things whereby one may edify another.” Many who have been saved from a life of sin and virtual addiction to entertainment of one sort or another are grieved to see those who profess the name of Christ occupied with these things. It is injurious to our own spiritual wellbeing. As Galatians 6:7-8 states so clearly, actions have consequences – “Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Is worldly entertainment “sowing to the flesh” or “sowing to the Spirit?” The fruit that will be reaped will be “seed after his kind.” Galatians 5:16-23 outlines the opposing interests and evidences of the “flesh” and the “Spirit.” The works of the flesh are ugly – the fruit of the Spirit is lovely. We must face the certain fact that what we hear and see does affect our spiritual condition. Proverbs 6:27 reminds us, “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” Ephesians 4:30 cautions us “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” Can we question that the portrayal of ungodly actions and speech grieve the Holy Spirit? Peter warns against fleshly lusts which war against the soul. Fleshly lusts can be indulged not only by actual actions, but by mental occupation. The long-lasting effects in our memory of seeing or hearing something inappropriate have been a grief to many of us.

May the Holy Spirit of God make us sensitive and wise so that we use our time pursuing activities that are consistent with holiness, compatible with the revealed will of God, and that promote the spiritual wellbeing of both our brethren and ourselves. May we be men and women who would deserve the commendation that God gave to Job, “one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (Job 1:8).