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Does it Matter What I Watch on TV?

Television can be a unifying force, particularly during the summer. There’s something tangibly different as you walk into your workplace or campus. You feel a surge of energy that flows through your offices, staff rooms and university buildings amidst the lively conversations concerning last night’s football and the episode of Love Island. With entertainment becoming such an integral part of our lives, this raises an important question: does it matter what I watch on TV?

Watch What You Consume

Health and fitness enthusiasts declare “you are what you eat.” Avid readers say “you are what you read.” “Eat” and “read” can be substituted for “listen to” or “watch”. The premise is this: what you consume may impact the person that you are. Although this varies, what you take in has some influence on your thoughts, desires and public witness to non-believers. This is why what you watch on TV, and all that you consume matters.

Guard Your Thoughts

There is no blanket ban on watching TV, nor do we have a checklist of what we should/should not watch. Nonetheless, it’s not everything that you can or should watch – you must be discerning. What we consume should be viewed through the lens of how our union with Christ which calls us to focus our minds on that which pleases God (Colossians 3:1-3). Right thinking is integral to righteous living. Christians are to have God-honouring thoughts – to pursue what is most excellent and pleasing to Him.

Although we can’t expect secular TV shows to promote Christian virtues, they may still be useful and harmless to watch, posing minimal threat toward the transformation of our lives by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). However, an explicit scriptural prohibition which is championed on our screens deserves zero attention. Where absent, you must ask whether you are dependent on it as suggested by an inability or unwillingness to abstain (1 Corinthians 6:12). Also consider your media consumption’s impact on your spiritual growth (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23). Asking yourself these questions will help to guard our thoughts from any negative influences and draw your attention away from what is most worthy of your focus.

“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.”

Philippians 4:8

Guard Your Heart

God does not bypass the mind as He transforms the heart. In Scripture, the heart often symbolises who a person is at the core of their being. Vauter describes it as “the centre for volition and the intellectual catalyst for feeling or action.” In other words, it represents our will and influences our actions. We commonly underestimate the impact of what we consume on our thoughts and desires. Relationship-centred reality shows could cause one to esteem their perception of relationships above the biblical portrait. You may pine after their portrayal of love and intimacy should you be unguarded. The content of a show may stir up a craving for controversy and gossip. Thus, what we consume affects our desires more than we think.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

Romans 12:9

“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Romans 13:13-14

Guard Your Witness

The faith we profess and the values of the God that we serve must be evidenced in every facet of our lives – including the type of media we consume and how we engage with it. Being a person of integrity requires a consistency between our morals and our actions in both private and public. Why is this necessary? Firstly, because it honours God. Secondly, you may be the only reference point someone has in understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus. You are a witness of the gospel in both word and deed. So don’t consume what may mar your witness for the sake of fitting in or downplaying its flaws and detrimental effects.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
    but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

Proverbs 10:9

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

James 4:7

As your favourite shows return, consider whether you tuning in will affect your thoughts, desires and witness. These are to be patterned after Christ and the new nature received by those who repent and trust in Jesus for salvation (Ephesians 4:22-24). It is not mandatory that we exclude ourselves from everything, but we must be discerning.

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Shumi Mararike
Alongside his Law undergraduate studies, Shumi is on the teaching team at Abide campus fellowship. He is also a youth mentor in both London and Manchester. Shumi joined the writers team with the desire to help readers live gospel-driven lives and develop their confidence when sharing their faith.