[Here is the second half of Mitchell’s post. Note: the last five points of his essay being “1.” each time is my error. apparently I can’t use the editor on this as I should and I can’t correct it. My apologies to the author and the reader.]
Putting into Practice Scriptural Principles for Entertainment
How then are we to approach entertainment? Should we have no qualms about going to see the latest film from Hollywood regardless of rating or content? Should there be no boundaries to what is and what is not acceptable for a Christian? After much intensive study, I see that there are no passages that speak directly about movies in the Bible. We cannot find an instance where Barnabas instructed John Mark what television series were acceptable and what were not. Should we then be silent about cinema?
I believe that there are certain principles in a proper interpretation of Scripture that we can apply to this situation. In fact, when we understand these principles, many answers appear for other activities as well. Let’s look at the principles that can be found in James 1:13-16.
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.”
- Where does sin originate?
This passage in James deals with the process of sin, that is, how sin develops in a believer’s life. James makes it clear that we are not drawn by God into sin. He then stipulates what does cause us to sin. “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Notice what is said here. He does not say that temptation is the origin of sin. He says we suffer temptation when we are drawn by our own lust. The only reason that temptation is effective in my life is because it takes advantage of the desire that is already in my heart. If I steal, it is not because the keys were left in the ignition of an unlocked car. I steal because there was already covetousness in my heart looking for an opportunity to manifest itself. This is the same thought that Jesus gave in Matthew 15:17-20 when He told the Pharisees that out of the heart comes “adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies.” I do not sin because I see a picture of an immodestly dressed and attractive woman. I sin because I lust after that woman in the picture.
Take this principle further to our entertainment. I do not sin when I hear profanity, see violence, or view immorality. However, make no mistake that these things can very well be the opportunity that our flesh takes to commit that sin. These can be the catalyst that entices us to give in to the lust in our heart and commit sin. Do not think that I am encouraging a believer to view any and all things that are available. What I am addressing is the idea that we sin because of the movies we watch, the books we read, or the music we listen to. This is not true. We sin because that sin is already in our heart. These things would have no power over us if sinful desires did not already exist within us.
- What does not solve the problem?
If we understand the Scriptural principle that sin dwells within us, then we also must understand that simply avoiding temptation will not address the root problem. Our root problem is the sinfulness of our flesh and the power that it continues to have inside of us. We can avoid all secular movies, television, and books and still have a heart full of ungodliness. Do not think that you are holy simply because you have eradicated “worldly influences” from your life. Holiness is not simply about what you do or not do, but is much more about what you do or do not think.
- What then should I or should I not watch?
If we accept and believe these principles, then what is acceptable and unacceptable to watch? We must take a deep and honest look at ourselves. What sins do you struggle with? Do you find there is often a weakness to lust? If this is the case, then it is very wise to avoid movies that would encourage this. Do you sometimes find yourself using God’s name inappropriately, then avoid those movies that exacerbate the problem. Yet, we cannot merely think of the “big” sins. Do you often covet? Pass on the movies that encourage greed. Do you find yourself becoming discontent with your spouse? Stay away from the movies that make you think “Why couldn’t I have him/her? He/she is SO perfect.” Perhaps you find a voyeur’s delight in viewing other’s sin. By this, I mean the depicted sin is what entertains you rather than the story that is told. This is again evidence that there is a problem inside of you.
This whole process requires one to be very honest and very concerned about his walk with God. We must be observant about our heart and take note about how things affect us. This principle is not for those who think “What can I get away with?” but rather is for those who will be honest with themselves.
- Does everyone have the same kind of lusts?
Another principle that we should understand is that not everyone suffers the same kinds of internal lusts. In James 1:14, the phrase “his own lust” means “his own peculiar lust” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown). Everyone has his own kinds of weaknesses in his flesh. Some may struggle with lust, others with pride, and others with insecurity. Each has his own kinds of weaknesses. Some may be able to view things that we cannot, and we may be able to view things that they cannot. This is a matter of Christian liberty. It should be a far greater concern that our brother does not display the fruit of the Spirit than that he does not keep to our pre-approved list of movies.
- What is my responsibility to my brother?
Lastly, we will briefly consider how these principles should affect our relationship with our Christian family. Since we see that not everyone has the same types of lust, we should be very careful what we encourage our Christian friends to take part in. Encourage them to be open about their struggles and do not pressure them into viewing something with which they are not comfortable. Likewise, be open with other believers and explain why you have chosen to stay away from a particular movie. We all have weaknesses, and we should all bear each other up that each of us can live a life well pleasing unto the Lord.
Much more could be said regarding entertainment. For instance, we could pursue how a Christian should watch a movie, what we should do with errant worldviews, how to use cinema as an opportunity for Christian growth and evangelism, among many other topics. However, for now let us simply think about how we choose our movies and how we treat Christians who make different choices than we do. Above all, consecrate yourself to the Lord’s purpose in this world and encourage this in your Christian brother as well. Only then can you truly be a holy Christian.