In 1953, two men were carried a big box up the front stairs to our house. It was one of those new-fangled things they called a “television.” My life was totally changed from then on. My favorites were Howdy Doody, Mickey Mouse Club, Lassie, Dragnet, Highway Patrol, Lucy, Perry Mason, Rawhide, and Red Skelton. My dad called me “The TV Kid!”
America has never been the same since the television came to our homes. Now with flat screens, cable, and streaming Wi-Fi, television continues to change us. A few years ago, I read some interesting statistics that said that 94% of all households in the United States have at least one television. Meanwhile, 91% of all households have a bathtub. One comedian quoted these figures and said
: “This goes to prove that more brains are being washed than bodies!” I think that comedian is more accurate than we realize. Don’t you?
“one-eyed monster” has invaded America. In most homes, the furniture is centered around the television. Meal times, bed times, and many other things revolve around what is on television. Studies show that television contributes to marital dissatisfaction and conflict, to obesity, to physical violence, to sexual promiscuity, to sex crimes, to depression, and even to shyness. Our political, moral, and spiritual values are being subtly and profoundly shaped by television.
So, what does that mean? Well, I know that the solution is not to ban television. There are too many wonderful benefits of television to prohibit it. There are educational, recreational, and spiritual programs that teach, entertain, and even edify. I would not minimize those benefits! I thoroughly enjoy them myself! But if I am going to fulfill my “30 Commitments for a Better Life” that I wrote about a few months, then I have to learn how to use television for my benefit and to not my disadvantage. I propose that
we need to learn how to control our television watching.
Since we are still in this COVID thing, we are watching more television than ever. So that this why am writing about television. Here are
suggestions on how you can manage your watching and how you can be in direct control (not remote control) of your television:
Watch with a careful eye. Be vigilant about the twisted values, soft pornography, coarse language, sexual overtones that is so much a part of sit-coms and reality programs. Turn off filth! Back in the Bay Area, I personally only have basic cable because I don’t want the temptation available. Folks, we need to be like the writer of Psalm 101:2-3 who declared:
“I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing ...”
Watch with a cynical eye. Ask yourself: What are these people trying to persuade me to do or to think? Does this program uphold moral and/or spiritual values? Is this program glamorizing sin, crime, immorality, greed, or violence? If any of this is true, turn it off! Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 18:9:
“And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” Jesus is not telling us to literally pull out our eyeballs here, but He is telling us to remove things that would move our minds and hearts to the things that would corrupt our minds, lead us to sin, and destroy what is valuable to our lives and walk with Him.
Watch with a parent’s eye. Ask yourself: What am I modeling for my kids? To what am I exposing my kids? Is this the best use of our family time? Wouldn’t I rather have my kids be better students or more committed Christians? Are my kids learning literature, art, music, service, athletics, self-discipline, and people skills or are they experts on what’s on TV? You are a steward of your precious children so don’t be a purveyor of temptation and sin!
Watch with a healthy eye. People who watch too much television, gain more weight. 25 years ago, research conducted at Harvard connected TV watching with obesity. Now after years of extensive studies, research links TV viewing and obesity in children and adults all around the world. By contrast, evidence shows that cutting back on TV time can help people lose weight. When people watch TV more, they sleep less. Less sleep means less years of life. When people watch TV more, that means more pounds. More pounds mean more heart attacks and strokes. Want to take care of God’s temple, your body? Consider going on TV diet. Read the Bible more. Spend time with your family more. Get more exercise! You’ll be healthier for cutting back on TV!
Watch with a psychological eye. Our psychological health is affected by television too. A few years ago, Donna St. George wrote an article in the Washington Post. She cited a study done by Social Indicators Research. The study was based on public opinion data from nearly 40,000 people ages 18 to 64, as well as time-use diaries that detailed how people spend their days. This study is one of the first to compare daily free-time activities with perceptions of personal contentment and happiness. They found that people who described themselves as "not too happy" watched more television. Unhappy people reported an extra 5.6 hours of tube time a week, compared with their happier counterparts. The study concluded that people enjoyed what they watched the previous evening but that those who watched television the longest did not feel as happy about their lives. In the short term, people could be happy watching some, but in the long term, television can lead to depression and alcoholism. They found that happy people spend more free hours socializing, reading and participating in religious activities, while unhappy people watch 30 percent more television. Want to be happier? Cut back on the TV!
Watch with a critical eye. E. Stanley Jones wrote:
"Whatever gets your attention gets you." That’s why you should pick apart the story line and the plot of everything you watch. What is the moral of the story? What is the agenda of the producers and the network? How will this seep into your mind, values, and ethics? Too often, the writers and the producers of these programs pull on your heart strings to empathize with a killer, a criminal, an adulterer, or an ungodly lifestyle. Romans 12:2 says:
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says:
“Avoid every kind of evil.”
Watch with a purposeful eye. If you look at the people who have truly succeeded in life, sports, politics, business, ministry, and spiritual life, not one of them watched TV more than a couple hours a day. If television is getting more of your time than what is truly important in your life, then, it is time to scale back your time in front of the tube. What are your life-goals? When life is done and people gather to celebrate your life, what do you want them to say? I can’t imagine them saying:
“What a great man he was! He watched TV so faithfully!” Life is so short so spend your life on things that will outlast you! Serve! Pray! Love! Make friends! Read God’s Word! Join a Life Group! Take a ministry at church? Learn something new. Invest your life in others!
A.W. Tozer put it this way:
"The devil loves it when we say we believe then prioritize everything in our lives ahead of God." I don’t want TV to direct my life and I bet you don’t either. So, make good choices about what you watch and how much you watch.
Watch with an activist’s eye
. The networks are getting away with a lot of garbage these days. Write them. Write their advertisers. Write the producers. Write the Federal Communication Commission. I write checks to the Parents Television Council (
) or American Family Association (www.afa.net) regularly because they fight this stuff with on the larger front. Put Comcast, the networks, the cable channels, Netflix, and Disney on notice when they violate decency and morality. Write them, call them, or email them! Make them accountable to you, their customer. Protect yourself, your kids, your grandkids, and your community from junk and filth!! Remember the squeaky wheel gets the grease! So, squeak!!
Watch with a rewarding eye. When you watch a program, it tells the writers, producers, networks, and cable companies to create more programs like the one you are watching. The Arbitron ratings keep track of the more watched programs. Each time you watch a program you reward the people who created it and pay for it. If you watch junk and porn, it will just encourage more junk and porn. If you watch wholesome and redemptive shows, it will make them give us more up-lifting and clean programing. I still love to watch Andy Griffith, Red Skelton, Dragnet, and The Rifleman. Don’t reward back program by watching them. Reward good programs by watching them instead!
Watch with a spiritual eye. John Piper wrote:
“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night.”
If your goal is to be a better Christian, to be a more contented person, or to honor God with your life, you have to reduce the amount of television you watch. Since I haven’t had a TV when I done church transitions in Denver, Seattle, Portland, and other places, I can attest to the great profit in less television. I can focus on my walk with Christ, my Bible and prayer commitments, and my ministry without it. My happiness is far better if the television is off. Paul spoke about this principle in Philippians 3:13-14 when he wrote:
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” You can’t be up early to read the Bible and pray if you are up late watching news, sports, movies, Fallon or Kimmel. So, you have to look at your life-purpose of living for Christ and leave television behind.
I like the way Good News for Modern Man version of the Bible renders Philippians 4:8. It says:
“Fill your mind with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.” That is how we need to watch television! That is how we need to think! That is how we need to live!
Will you join me in honoring God with our use of television?
I love being your pastor!
Pastor Mark Platt