entertainment discernment

©2019 michael martin | mike@truthquest.org

1. the truth about entertainment

We live in an entertainment and media-driven culture, with greater access to all forms of entertainment than at any time in history. But for the person who belongs to Jesus Christ, a constant challenge exists. How do we make entertainment choices that honor God?

a. the purpose of entertainment

For us, the purpose of entertainment might simply be for a time of relaxation and diversion. We might enjoy momentarily escaping from the realities of our lives, enjoying some laughs, or maybe letting off some steam through a video game.

However, for the entertainment industry, it is important to remember one thing:

It’s all about the money!

While some entertainment forms may be well-intended, hoping to make a positive impact on its audience, the bottom line is what it’s all about!

Film studios aren’t as concerned with the welfare of their audiences as they are about their wallets, nor should we expect them to be.

News organizations are the same way. First and foremost, “news” is entertainment, not a public service. The news industry is a for-profit business.

The same goes for the sports industry, the publishing industry, and social media. All of these entertainment forms exist for profit.

While all of this is understandable, it is important to remember that none of these industries exist primarily for our benefit. If something makes money, whether it is right or wrong, that’s what the entertainment industry will produce.

In the news, “if it bleeds, it leads,” meaning that the most gruesome, worrisome and spectacular stories will get the most attention, and will often be exaggerated or misrepresented in order to gain more views and, in turn, more advertising revenue.

In the advertising industry, it’s said that “sex sells,” and they are correct. The tv, film, publishing and sports industries understand this principle too, and often put it into practice.

As such, most of our entertainment is the result of what the people of our world will pay to see. And so, most of the entertainment choices available to us are naturally a reflection of a fallen world.

 

b. a reflection of a fallen world

II timothy 3:1-5

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

This passage illustrates the world we live in today. It is not surprising, then, that most of our entertainment options portray the things listed in this passage, often to a spectacular extent.

A villain in a story might embody many of the darker characteristics listed in our passage above, but sometimes to the extreme.

The “good guys,” meanwhile, whether they are protagonists in a movie or sports figures, musicians, or other role models, may receive some “hero worship” from their fans, often without merit. In other words, our heroes (and even our villains) may have a form of godliness while denying its power.

c. the dangers to us

Since our entertainment options usually reflect our fallen world, it is natural that many of the dark qualities of that world will be glorified in some of our entertainment. This carries many dangers for the person who wants to live for Christ. These dangers include:

adultery

matthew 5:27-28

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Jesus told us that we don’t have to commit a physical act to be guilty of adultery. As such, we are in danger of committing adultery simply by watching a screen.

imitating what is evil

III john 1:11

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.

It’s easy to imitate what we see in our entertainment. Our culture is driven by it! But if we’re not very careful, we could find ourselves imitating what is evil.

harboring hidden sin

luke 8:17

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Consider this: Nothing we do is done in secret. God sees and knows all that we do, including all the entertainment we consume.

corrupting our hearts and minds

As sinful humans, our hearts are already corrupt (see Jeremiah 17:9), but consuming a steady diet of ill-advised entertainment threatens to further corrupt us and influence us:

matthew 12:33-37

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

If we have to give an account for every careless word we speak, will we not also have to give an account for every careless choice we make in our entertainment? We have to be very careful!

d. who’s looking out for us?

The point is, the entertainment industry isn’t nearly as concerned with our welfare as they are about our money, nor should we expect them to be. That’s not their job.

We live in a fallen world, driven mostly by people who do not have the benefit of the Holy Spirit to guide them. The Scriptures have rightly pointed this out:

I corinthians 2:14

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

Therefore, since the entertainment industry is neither focused upon, nor capable of serving our best interests, the responsibility falls to us.

 

2. our responsibility

I corinthians 10:23-24

“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive. 24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

When we sit down to engage in any form of entertainment, we are taking an action. As with any other action we take, we must discern whether that action will be beneficial, first to others, then to ourselves, and whether that action will be pleasing to God.

a. the choices at hand

As Paul wrote, everything is permissible for us. It’s not true that followers of Jesus can’t watch certain movies or tv, it’s that they choose not to in order to please Christ and to benefit others. Our challenge is to make choices that are, as Paul wrote, beneficial.

Everything that comes to us through tv, movies, video games, books or otherwise represents a choice being made on our parts.

active choices

When we decide to go see a movie or turn to a particular tv show or event, we are actively choosing to expose ourselves to whatever that event entails. We are accountable to God for all of those choices.

passive choices

If we’re sitting in front of the tv, perhaps not paying close attention, and a new program or commercial comes on that we didn’t intend to view, we still have a choice whether to continue watching. These choices are also accountable to God.

assumed risks

The trick is, we often don’t know what all of the content of our entertainment will be. Whether we’re making active or passive choices, there are always assumed risks.

Indeed, there are assumed risks to every activity we engage in. When we go to work, we can assume that we will be exposed to foul language, gossip, and strife. We might encounter women or men who are dressed or presented in a sensual manner. We might see opportunities for sin which are of particular struggle for us.

We can’t shield ourselves from all of that, because we live in a fallen world; a world that Jesus does not want to remove us from until the right time:

john 17:15-16

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

Although Jesus doesn’t want us to be removed from this world, neither does He want us to live the same way that this world lives. Although we live in this world, we are not of this world.

As we go about our lives, trying to serve Christ in a fallen world, we will be exposed to many unsavory things, while still being called to live holy and upright lives for God’s glory. Yet, it should be no surprise that our entertainment will show all of the unsavory things of our world, just as we might see in “real life.”

Watching a sporting event carries the risk of being exposed to foul language, drunkenness, scantly dressed cheerleaders, and so on.

Watching a crime drama or a sci-fi show carries the risk of foul language, exposure to violent content, sensuality, and so on.

Whether in movies, tv, books, video games, sporting events, or news programs, there is almost always a risk of being exposed to content that might not be beneficial for us or our families.

Unlike the things we encounter in “real life,” however, we choose our entertainment. Through our entertainment, we choose what we will expose to ourselves and our families.

We will explore some ways in which we can be informed about our choices a bit later, but now, let’s look at the clear directives that God has given us.

b. the choices we are called to make

romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

As we’ve already seen, although we live in a fallen world, we are not to live in the same way as this world lives. Instead, we are to be transformed by God’s Word and by His Spirit, which will equip us to discern His will. With such discernment in place, we are told what choices we should make:

james 4:7

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

II corinthians 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

psalm 101:3

I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.

I timothy 6:11

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

As we’re seeing, we are not only called to resist and flee from ungodliness; we are to pursue Christ and His righteousness, turning our focus to what is beneficial to us:

philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

c. harder than ever?

One could argue that it is now more difficult than ever to make God-honoring choices in entertainment because of the Information Age in which we live.

To be sure, we now have unprecedented access to all forms of media. Any sporting event, movie, tv show, video game or book can be ours on demand within seconds. As a result, all of the pitfalls that go with entertainment seem more likely than ever to ensnare this generation.

However, our tendency toward sin is not the result of having opportunities to sin. That’s because sin begins in the heart, as theses Scriptures show us:

luke 6:45

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

james 1:13-15

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

In other words, your greatest enemy is not the devil or other external temptations. Your greatest enemy is you!

To further illustrate this point, let’s take a look at Israel’s history in the passage below:

I corinthians 10:1-5

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Here, we see that the Israelites lived in the midst of God’s glory. They saw His mighty works and experienced His goodness. Yet, God was not pleased with most of them, because despite all they had experienced, they still longed for what was evil. Continue reading:

I corinthians 10:6-10

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

Here, we see that all of Israel’s struggles occurred as examples to us. There was no tv, no internet, and no Hollywood to tempt them. Despite having experienced God’s majesty and faithfulness, the people of Israel sought after what was sinful, with sins ranging from sexual immorality to grumbling.

I corinthians 10:11

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

Think about this. While the people of Israel, having experienced God’s majesty, were accountable for their evil choices, how much more accountable are we? Unlike them, we have their example to learn from. Unlike them, we have the entire written Word of God to guide us. Unlike them, we have the Holy Spirit Himself living inside of us.

If the Israelites were accountable for their sinful choices, then we are far more accountable, because we have far more reason to know better!

Finally, this passage tells us that our temptations are not unique or insurmountable:

I corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Truly, our generation has greater access to media and to the temptations that go with it. But even so, Scripture tells us that we are not being tempted beyond what is common to mankind.

Just because we have greater access to media doesn’t mean we get a pass! Because we also have greater access to the Truth than anyone in history. Additionally, the verse above promises that we will always have a way not to sin.

In other words, we don’t have an excuse. We have a responsibility.

d. taking responsibility

Since we are clearly responsible for the choices we make, including in our entertainment, we must continuously practice the principles of Scripture.

titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

radical amputation

Saying “no” to ungodliness is difficult at times. Sometimes, it is so difficult that it is better not to put ourselves in situations where we will be confronted with temptations that we particularly struggle with. This concept has been described as “radical amputation.” Here’s why:

mark 9:43-47

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell...

see also:

Matthew 5:27-30
Matthew 18:9

These statements, made directly by Jesus, make it clear what the stakes are. If we struggle with a particular temptation, then we should rid ourselves of that temptation.

For example, if a young man struggles with online porn, then he and his parents should be willing to take drastic measures to remove that temptation. If internet access is required for school or work, then stringent filters and restrictions are in order. If internet is not needed for school or work, then more radical measures such as eliminating internet access or devices may be in order.

e. governing our hearts and our choices

To review, it is the sinful heart and not the temptation that is the root problem. However, the choices we make about exposing ourselves to those temptations are reflections of our hearts!

And since our hearts are the issue, then we should guard and govern our hearts closely, because all of our choices, actions and words are from the overflow of our hearts. Consider what Paul wrote about our words:

ephesians 4:29

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

If the Scriptures command us to control what comes out of our mouths, why should we not also control what comes out of our tv’s, phones or devices?

So in addition to governing our words, we might consider applying Ephesians 4:29 this way:

ephesians 4:29 (with alterations)

Do not let any unwholesome content come out of your devices, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who watch.

While this is not, of course, what the text of Ephesians 4:29 says, the principle is very much aligned with everything Scripture says about this issue.

how can we make the right choices?

It would be very easy at this point to become legalistic in our choices and our attitudes. Truly, there are many pitfalls to avoid in our entertainment, but making Godly choices involves more than making or following rules.

People sometimes ask me if certain movies or tv shows are “okay to watch.” But that misses the point. The question is not whether it is “okay” to consume a form of entertainment, but whether doing so is pleasing to God and beneficial.

This calls for wisdom, and since we cannot be objective about our entertainment preferences, that wisdom must come from God.

 

3. seeking wisdom from God

james 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

In our media-driven culture, we will be faced with choices on a daily (and perhaps even hourly) basis. If we’re not sure whether a certain form of entertainment is beneficial or pleasing to God, then we should start by asking Him!

proverbs 15:14

The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

proverbs 1:7

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

matthew 6:33

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Seeking God in this way is a continual and ongoing process. The more familiar we are with God’s Word, the more wisdom we will have for making our choices.

philippians 1:9-11

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

hebrews 5:11-14

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

acts 17:11

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

As you can see, a steady, healthy diet of Scripture will equip us to understand what is true, what is beneficial, and what is pleasing to God. Moreover, followers of Christ have the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who equips us to make right judgements:

I corinthians 2:15-16

The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Imagine! As believers in Christ Jesus, we have the mind of Christ, because the Holy Spirit lives in us! But we must still make a choice. God does not force His will upon us. Rather, He is glorified when we freely choose to submit to Him. As such, we must choose to set our hearts on things above:

colossians 3:1-4

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Armed with the wisdom of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, we are called and equipped to set our minds on what pleases Him. In doing so, we will see more clearly to surrender our sinful desires, many of which are embodied in our entertainment:

colossians 3:5-8

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

If we strive to put these things to death in our own lives, it follows that we will not desire to see these things glorified in our entertainment either. But as sinners, we will continuously have to struggle between our fleshly desires and the will of the Holy Spirit. That’s why we should continually ask God to test our hearts and show us the right path:

psalm 139:23-24

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

psalm 119:34-37

Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

a. putting God’s wisdom to work

As we continue to search God’s Word for wisdom, we will be well-equipped to build discernment.

Discernment is defined as “the ability to judge well,” or “perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual guidance and understanding.”

While God’s Word must be the foundation for all of our discernment and judgment, we also need to be informed, as wisdom dictates, about the issues we need to discern:

proverbs 15:14

The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

And so, armed with wisdom and knowledge from God, let’s take a look at how to apply that wisdom to the knowledge we gain about worldly matters, including entertainment.

 

4. building discernment

matthew 10:16

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Equipped with wisdom from God, both through His Scriptures and through His Spirit, we will be well on our way to making good choices in our entertainment. However, in order to make good choices, we will also need to build discernment about the entertainment itself.

a. contents unknown

If you’ve ever had a canned product that lost its label, you can appreciate this point. We seldom know the entire contents of a movie, show, book, game, or sporting event until we get into it. Until we “open the can,” the best we can do is to make an educated guess.

That’s why we need to be informed, as much as possible, about whether our entertainment will include elements which may cause us (or others with us) to stumble.

However, there are ways in which we can get an idea of the contents of our entertainment before we see it, allowing us to make more informed choices.

proverbs 11:14

For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.

Let’s take a look at some of these “advisers”:

b. ratings systems

Even our world has seen the need for some level of discernment in our entertainment. And while our world’s standards are not God’s standards, it’s safe to assume that if our fallen world thinks that something might be inappropriate, it’s usually worth considering.

film ratings

The following ratings descriptions are taken from the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system Wikipedia page (found here)

G: All ages admitted. Nothing that would offend parents for viewing by children.

PG: Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give “parental guidance”. May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.

PG-13: Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.

R: Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.

tv ratings

The following ratings descriptions are taken from the TV parental guidelines Wikipedia page (found here)

TV-Y: Programs rated TV-Y are designed to be appropriate for children of all ages, specifically designed for a very young audience, including children from ages 2–6.

TV-Y7: Programs rated TV-Y7 are designed for children age 7 and older.

TV-G: Programs rated TV-G are generally suited for all audiences, though they may not necessarily contain content of interest to children. The thematic elements portrayed in programs with this rating contain little or no violence, mild language, and no sexual dialogue or situations.

TV-PG: Programs rated TV-PG contain material that parents or guardians may find inappropriate for younger children. Programs assigned a TV-PG rating may include some inappropriate language, very little sexual content or suggestive dialogue and/or violence.

TV-14: Programs rated TV-14 may contain some material that parents may find unsuitable for children under the age of 14. Programs with this rating contain crude humor, drug/alcohol use, moderate language, strong violence (may include some amounts of blood and gore), intense sexual content and moderate suggestive themes or dialogue.

TV-MA: Some content may be unsuitable for children. Programs with this rating commonly include dark humor, frequent use of profanity, intense violence (may include blood and gore) or strong sexual themes.

video game ratings

The following ratings descriptions were taken from the ESRB website, found here.

E (Everyone): Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

E10+ (Everyone 10+): Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

T (Teen): Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.

M (Mature): Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

AO (Adults Only): Content suitable only for adults ages 18 and up. May include prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and/or gambling with real currency.

music ratings

With music, the only rating system currently in place is the Parental Advisory label warning about explicit content. According to the Wikipedia page on the subject:

[The advisory label] is placed on audio recordings in recognition of excessive profanities or inappropriate references, with the intention of alerting parents of potentially unsuitable material for younger children.

(taken from this Wikipedia page)

book ratings

There is currently no standardized rating system for books. This does not mean that books are always good or safe to read. After all, every movie, show or game has its beginnings in written form.

a warning about ratings...

It is important to remember that all of these ratings systems are established by sinful humans in a fallen world. These ratings can help us to gain some insight about the content of our entertainment, but cannot always be the final word on whether the content is beneficial.

It is also important to remember that our world might have no concerns at all about approving content for children which contains worldly ideologies or political agendas. Similarly, content that contains Biblical messages might be rated more strictly. That’s because our world cannot judge things in the same way that our Lord does.

I corinthians 2:14

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

And so, while we can be thankful that our world places ratings on much of the media, we must always remember that those ratings are not based upon Biblical values.

c. review websites

Beyond the ratings systems, there are some websites that have reviewed much of the available entertainment for the purpose of informing us about its content. These websites can give us insight about the amount of profanity, sexuality, drug and alcohol use, spiritual elements, and negative and positive elements that a movie, show, game or book contains.

plugged in online

pluggedin.com

This website, and accompanying apps, are operated by Focus on the Family. The site reviews most new films as soon as they come out and gives detailed reviews (with adequate spoiler warnings). The reviews break down each film by disclosing the amount of profanity, sexuality, drug and alcohol use, spiritual elements, and negative and positive elements each movie contains.

The reviewers also provide some personal insight into whether they enjoyed the film, stopping short of telling their readers whether they should see the movie.

Plugged in reviews TV shows and video games too, albeit with less detail.

common sense media

commonsensemedia.org

Like Plugged In, Common Sense Media reviews movies, tv, video games and books.

In addition to detailed reviews by staff writers, Common Sense Media also allows parents and kids to post their opinions about the reviewed media.

While Common Sense Media is not a Christian organization, its founder, James Steyer, has long been an advocate for shielding children from unsuitable content.

d. actor, show, or ideological reputations

luke 6:43-45

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

As Jesus told us, we can recognize trees by their fruit. Therefore, if an actor or actress is known for frequently performing sexual content or profanity on screen, we should pay attention and understand that the presence of that actor or actress in a movie or show might heighten the likelihood of inappropriate content.

Similarly, if a performer is known for being outspoken politically, we can be alerted that some of that ideology may come through his or her performances.

In the same way, if a show or film series has a history of inappropriate content in the past, it is likely to continue in future installments.

That’s not to say we can “judge a book by its cover,” but as Jesus said, we can know a tree by its fruit. If the past reputations of a performer or show give us reason to suspect that their new content will cause us to stumble, then we should tread carefully.

proverbs 20:11

Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright?

e. context of content

proverbs 16:2

All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Often times in entertainment, it is not so much what it presented as much as the motive or manner in which it is presented.

For example, a movie about surfing might feature most of the cast wearing bathing suits or wet suits, because that is what naturally takes place when people go surfing. If the movie is drawing our attention to the surfing, then it might not present as much of a stumbling block to some men.

However, if a similar beach movie presents bikini-clad characters in such a way as to sensualize or objectify them, it is certain to cause problems.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that it’s okay for men to watch women in bikinis! Rather, I’m saying that the context, intent and motive of the entertainment is very important.

As another example, consider the villains that are included in most of our stories. While the presence of a villain might not bother most people, the question is whether the producers want us to admire or approve of that villain’s actions.

The Bible itself is full of sin, evil, villains, and sexual; sin, but it is all presented to show us the evil of these things, giving us examples of how not to live.

Some of our entertainment might contain some of the same dark elements that we find in the Bible, but for what purpose? Are the producers trying to show us why these things are wrong? Or, are they trying to cause us to lust, or to sympathize with what God says is evil? These things all need to be carefully considered when making entertainment choices.

isaiah 5:20

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

f. personal sin struggles

romans 14:14

I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.

While the Bible is very clear about a multitude of sins, there are still many sin struggles that vary from one person to another.

For example, a woman might not struggle with sin while watching a beach movie featuring women in bikinis, while a man might struggle with lust. Similarly, a woman might struggle with discontentment by watching romance movies, while a man might not.

One important question to ask regarding an entertainment choice is, “will this cause me to stumble?” Let’s explore that!

g. is this likely to cause me to stumble?

Will watching a basketball game cause us to become frustrated, short-tempered, and angry? Will a scary movie cause us to live in fear? Will the costumes in a sci-fi show cause us to stumble?

As we’ve previously said, choosing to partake in entertainment is an active choice to take an action. In doing that, we must guard our hearts and give careful thought to our choices:

proverbs 4:23-27

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

If we know that the costumes in a movie, show, or online post are likely to cause us to stumble, then we should avoid it.

If we believe that we might become angry or frustrated by watching a sporting event, we should be on our guard.

If we find ourselves becoming angry or fearful because we’re watching the news, perhaps it is best for us to turn it off.

If we suspect that our kids might be ideologically confused by the agendas presented in something they’re watching or playing, we should examine it more closely and take appropriate action.

Going further, it is not enough to only ask if our entertainment will cause us to stumble. There is another question we must also ask:

h. will this cause my brother or sister to stumble?

I corinthians 8:9-13

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

If we’re watching something in the company of other people, we must not only consider what is beneficial to ourselves, but must first consider what if beneficial to those who are with us.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this several times, making reference to eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Paul knew, as did many believers, that idols were nothing and that sacrifices made to idols were therefore meaningless. Yet, Paul was also sensitive to the fact that many believers felt it was sinful to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. For those people, Paul wrote, eating such meat would be sin, because it violated their consciences and convictions.

It was therefore not loving for people who had clear consciences about eating such meat to do so in the presence of those who felt it was sinful.

This same principle can be applied to entertainment. For the sake of discussion, let’s take the movie “Star Wars,” which we will neither endorse or condemn here.

Let’s imagine that one man (we’ll call him “Bill”) enjoys Star Wars and does not struggle with sin by watching it. Bill watches Star Wars with a clear conscience. Now, let’s imagine that his friend (we’ll call him “Ted”) struggles with some of the imagery and spiritual implications of Star Wars, and feels that he would be sinning if he watched the movie. Because of his convictions, Ted would be sinning by watching Star Wars.

Therefore, if Bill and Ted are together (perhaps having an excellent adventure), Bill should not watch Star Wars in Ted’s presence, and he should not pressure Ted to watch Star Wars.

romans 14:15

If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.

This principle should always be considered when choosing entertainment. We are called to love each other and to honor one another above ourselves:

romans 12:10

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

So then, when it comes to choosing entertainment, we must always first consider what is most beneficial to others, then to ourselves.

Let’s explore this issue a bit more...

 

5. personal preference vs. Scripture

Since there is no list in the Bible to tell us specifically which movies, shows, books or games are appropriate and which aren’t, we are left to choose for ourselves. But the fact is, we don’t all make the same choices, and this sometimes causes conflicts.

Paul wrote at length about this issue in Romans chapter 14. Here again, Paul wrote about the issue of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Although the Scriptures did dot define that as a sin, some people felt wrong about eating such meat, and so for them, it was sin to do so. Let’s explore Romans chapter 14 together as it can be applied to entertainment:

a. romans chapter 14

romans 14:1-2

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.

Some of our available entertainment is clearly defined as being sinful for us to partake (such as porn, for example). But similar to the verses above, many of our entertainment choices are a matter of personal conviction. Let’s read on as Romans continues to flesh out this concept:

romans 14:3

The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.

As with the meat discussed here, we can apply this principle to our entertainment. For example, if one man can watch Star Wars without being caused to stumble into sin, and if he watches it with a clear conscience, he shouldn’t look down on the person who doesn’t watch Star Wars because he thinks it would be wrong for him to watch it.

In the same way, the man who feels it would be wrong for him to watch Star Wars (because he feels it would either be sinful or because he fears that it might cause him to sin) shouldn’t look down on the man who feels he can watch it with a clear conscience.

romans 14:4

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

We should not judge those who make different entertainment choices than we do (on disputable matters of conscience). The man who doesn’t watch Star Wars shouldn’t judge the man who does, and vice versa. God will do the judging!

romans 14:5-9

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

Here again, we see that, wherever Scripture does not specifically define something, each one of us should be fully convinced in our own minds about what is sin for us, and we should live by it. And, if others reach different conclusions on matters that aren’t specifically defined by Scripture, we should not pass judgment on them:

romans 14:10-13

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,

‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’”

12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

Instead of passing judgment on one another because we have different convictions about disputable matters, we should instead be most concerned with not causing others to stumble. God is the Righteous Judge! We should therefore not take offense when others have different convictions than we do. Bill should not be offended that Ted doesn’t watch Star Wars, and Ted shouldn’t be offended because Bill does watch Star Wars.

Let’s read on...

romans 14:14-18

I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

As we discussed earlier, if Ted believes it would be sinful for him to watch Star Wars, then it would indeed be sinful for him to do so. Therefore, if Bill pressures Ted to watch Star Wars, he is not acting in love. In fact, he is sinning:

romans 14:19-21

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

Imagine verses 20 and 21 being worded this way:

verses 20 and 21, with alterations

Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of a movie [show, website, song, etc]. Some media is clean, but it is wrong for a person to watch anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to watch movies, shows, websites, songs or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

In everything we do, by word or deed, we should endeavor to please God and to bless others. In our entertainment, that may mean not watching some of our favorite movies or shows. But if we are acting in love, then it is a very small sacrifice to make so that we may please our Lord and bless our brothers and sisters!

romans 14:22-23

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Finally, there is the principle shown above. If we have personal convictions that differ from the convictions of those around us, then it is most beneficial to keep those convictions to ourselves so that we do not cause our brothers and sister to stumble.

As a pastor, I am sometimes asked whether I recommend certain movies. As a matter of practice, I generally don’t recommend movies or shows, because although I might have found a particular movie or show edifying, I cannot be sure of the personal convictions of those who are asking my opinion.

I don’t want my “approval” of a movie to cause others, who might have different convictions, to stumble.

b. it’s all about the heart!

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when considering our entertainment choices. But at the end of the day, the most important factor is our own hearts. And so, to close, let’s ponder a few questions that might help us to examine our hearts when considering our entertainment choices.

 

6. heart-check questions

To conclude, ask yourself a few self-examination questions as you consider your entertainment options, and seek the wisdom of God, along with the available information about your entertainment, to discern the best choices you can make. In this way, even your consumption of entertainment can become an act of worship to God!

am i neglecting responsibilities or other people so that i can be entertained?

proverbs 10:4

Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.

galatians 5:14

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

am i hoping to see some “eye candy?”

matthew 5:28

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

is my entertainment an idol?

jonah 2:8

“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.”

am i consumed with entertainment?

colossians 3:2

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

am i being negatively influenced by this entertainment?

III john 1:11

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.

is this entertainment glorifying what God calls evil?

isaiah 5:20

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

is this entertainment causing me to be discontent?

I timothy 6:6

But godliness with contentment is great gain.

is this adversely affecting my walk with God?

james 4:8

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.