I know, I know…when it comes time to plop down in front of the television, the last thing we want to do is think. We want to veg out and just have fun. Yet the Bible commands Christians to evaluate everything we take into our mind. Visual media—television, movies, plays, YouTube videos—can be a great way to experience places and adventures we might not otherwise experience or to feel what characters feel in sorrowful or exciting situations. Visual media can even strengthen our faith in God or help us introduce a non-Christian friend to Christ.
But not every movie, play, television show, or video is good for us. The Bible teaches in 1 John 4 that Christians must test the spirits to discern what’s true and what’s false. In other words, we have to test what we choose to watch. Sometimes rejecting a movie or television show is a no-brainer because our parents said we aren’t allowed to watch it or because the content is clearly bad for us. But what about those shows that fall into neutral territory? How do we decide which movies we should skip? How do we know which YouTube videos we should post on our Facebook wall? Here are three questions that can help us decide:
- What’s being said about Jesus? Lying spirits hate Jesus. If a television show spouts lies about Christ, we need to turn it off. No matter how much a play or movie stirs our emotions, we can’t embrace it if it actively denies the biblical truths that Jesus is God who became man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, rose again, ascended into Heaven, and is coming back one day.
- Does the world love it? Popularity doesn’t equal truth. In fact, if the world loves a play/movie/TV show/video, Christians should be wary. By nature, the world loves what is worldly and hates what is from God. Remember, labels can be deceiving. Just because somebody labels a show “inspirational” or “faith-based” doesn’t make it Christ-exalting. I’m not saying every “family-friendly” movie that gets nominated for an Academy Award is teaching lies. I’m just saying we can’t buy into it without careful testing because not everything labeled “faith-based” is based on faith in the right Person.
- Is it biblical? This question doesn’t let us be lazy. We can’t simply point to a tacked-on Bible verse at the end of a YouTube clip and call it godly. We have to ask if the verse is being interpreted right. We have to ask if it’s been taken out of context. In order to recognize whether something is biblical, we have to know what the Bible actually says. If we’re not sure whether something fits with the Bible’s teaching, we should ask for help from a parent, youth leader, pastor, or mature Christian friend. And of course, we should always pray for God’s help in discerning the truth.
So what do we do if we realize the latest, greatest movie or television show doesn’t pass the test? We don’t watch it—no matter how many of our church friends adore it. But if it passes the test, great. We can relax and enjoy the good gift God has allowed us.