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Is My Entertainment a Sin?

I’m a sophomore in high school, it’s midday, and I feel that I have nothing to do, so I put on one of my favorite shows — Criminal Minds. In this episode, the FBI agents are once again on the search for a demented serial killer. As I watch, I learn about the mind and methods of a murderer. My eyes repeatedly witness gory scenes as I’m on the edge of my seat, trying to discover who the unsub is. After I finish the episode, I can barely grab the mail during daylight as I’m paralyzed by fear.

After years of watching this show off and on, I became increasingly plagued by guilt. I often stopped viewing the show for a couple of months at a time, but soon after, I’d turn it on again. I appeased my conscience by reminding myself that there were much worse shows I could be watching. Yet, the more I watched, the less I began to value human life and the more hardened I became toward evil in the world. A tragic story on the news didn’t grieve my heart as it did before.

My mind was regularly exposed to evils in this world that I didn't need to know. After years of consuming popular movies and TV series, I couldn’t continue living with a troubled conscience. The more I read Scripture, the less subjective my criteria for entertainment became. I began to ask myself, why was it okay for me to watch a movie that was PG-13 but not R-rated? Surely, most R-rated films were worse, but why were the "less bad” shows still permissible? And why is it that I feel immense guilt hearing the S-word but have little regard for my precious Savior’s name being taken in vain? Isn’t that far worse? I began to realize that my criteria for entertainment was more shaped by the world than by Scripture. Even many non-believers are hesitant to watch a film with loads of profanity and sexual scenes. Should my standards as a Christian not be any higher?

What Is a Personal Conviction?

Before I get into the specific scriptures that transformed my view of entertainment, I will challenge you, dear reader, to not so quickly deem this as an area of Christian liberty or personal conviction as I did for years. A personal conviction is something listed in scripture that’s not explicitly a sin, but some believers feel it is a sin for them because they cannot do it in good faith (Rom. 14:23). This could be getting piercings, wearing pants, or makeup, or drinking alcohol. These are areas of Christian liberty that I think should be left up to each person’s conscience.

We also need to consider that there are sins that aren’t explicitly listed in Scripture because of the cultural changes our world has seen. The Bible doesn’t tell us that our modern-day cuss words are sinful. The Bible also doesn’t explicitly say, "It is a sin to watch porn.” So, neither does the Bible tell us it's a sin to watch certain movies. Yet, we can conclude from other Scriptures that cussing and pornography are clearly sins. They shouldn’t be deemed as an area of Christian liberty or personal conviction.

So, as we think about the entertainment we consume (movies, music, social media posts, and books), we should also consider teachings in Scripture that can help us understand if something is a sin to watch, look at, listen to, or read. The point of looking at these standards is not so we can pharisaically look down on others or earn the favor of God; rather, it is to live a life pleasing to our Lord.

Is This a Sin? Questions to Consider:

1. How is this working to transform my mind?

One of the greatest blessings to my Christian walk has been taking truths from scripture and continually meditating on them. I found this to be the cure for paralyzing fears and anxieties that often plagued me. What I filled my mind with transformed me. If I filled my mind with fears, then I was distraught, but when I filled my mind with Scripture, I was hopeful. This is why the Bible commands us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). As we consume entertainment, we must avoid the unbiblical view that we can listen to, read, or watch something without being affected. Everything we allow into our mind is working to transform it for better or for worse. If we aren’t actively working to transform it for good, then we will be conformed to this world.

2. Is this pure, honorable, and praiseworthy?

One of the first scriptures that convicted me in regard to my entertainment was this one: “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 (Phil. 4:8). If this is the way Christians are to think of course our entertainment is included as our minds are always at work. So we should ask: Is the message of this show true, just, and honorable? Are my eyes witnessing something pure or impure? Is this book so commendable that I’d recommend it to the godliest Christians I know? Is this an excellent article that I’d want my young children to read? Is this music worthy of praise so much that I’d tell God of how glorifying it is? Another beauty of this scripture is that it precisely answers any questions we may have as to how we should renew our minds. We renew our minds by continually filling them with lovely and pure truths.

3. Does this promote immorality and depict evil as good?

Nearly every movie has an evil character, and this is even the case in Scripture. It’s not a sin for Scripture to tell us of our enemy, the devil, but it is a sin to promote wickedness rather than condemn it. When we allow our minds to be entertained by evil, we passively endorse it. Scripture gives a strong condemnation to those who call evil good (Isaiah 5:20). God’s children are not only to avoid evil but they are also instructed to condemn it. Nearly every popular TV series contains homosexual couples, one-night stands, and drunkenness that is never condemned. Instead, it’s depicted as good or pleasurable. As I watched some of the most popular shows, I thought I was okay as long as I recognized what was a sin, but that wasn’t enough. My prayers lacked fervency and care for the lost. How could I passionately pray that God would lead my wayward friend to salvation when I was regularly entertained by their sort of lifestyle? I couldn't. I find this sort of entertainment to be a red flag that our lives are prayerless.

4. Is this tempting me to sin?

"Therefore anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). This is a warning Paul gives to Christians who are spiritually proud being convinced that they are unable to fall to sin. So Paul makes it clear that no Christian is beyond temptation to sin. Avoiding temptations to sin is not being "holier than thou”; rather, it is recognizing oneself as unholy. Since all Christians still wrestle with their wicked flesh, we too should be vigilant, knowing that Satan is looking to devour us. It would be prideful for us to assume we are beyond the ability to be tempted by the music we listen to and the movies we watch. A mature believer never gives themself an opportunity to sin, thinking they are too mature to fall; instead, they avoid sin at all costs. Are we beyond the temptation to swear as we listen to music with profanity? Are we unable to be tempted to lust in viewing sexual scenes? Only Christ was unable to fall to sin, and even He chose not to fellowship with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14).

5. Is this corrupting my innocence?

As we live in a broken world, our innocence from childhood will be corrupted in some sense no matter how sheltered we grew up. We will witness sin, hear curse words, and learn of the wicked practices of the world. This is all out of our control, but with what we can control, we should never allow our minds to be wise to evil. Scripture calls us to "be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Rom. 16:19). Our call isn’t to corrupt our innocence for the sake of "knowing things about the world." Instead, we are to guard our innocence just as we guard the innocence of young children. God has graciously given us the mind as a means to grow in the wisdom of what is good. Will we receive this gift with thankfulness, or will we tear it to pieces?

May we please our Father God by showing thanks for giving us the gift of Jesus so that we may walk in righteousness. May we never grieve the Holy Spirit but instead grow in the fruit of the Spirit as we kill sin in our lives. Let us do all this to praise and glory of our Saviour.

"So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart."

2 Timothy 2:22


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