The Bible: Our T.V. Guide

by Kevin Takenaka

Television is a major part of our Western culture. We enjoy lounging in front of the TV to relax and be entertained. We do it for hours at a time. It takes captive our attention and our mind is fixed on what it has to say. If you doubt this, think about how easy it would be to sit through a 100 minute live sermon, compared to how easy it would be to sit through a 100 minute action video-movie (Terminator 2?). One cannot deny that it has impacted the way that we view society, view the civil government, view church, view families and even the way we view ourselves. The most important question here is, "What kind of an impact does TV have on us? Is it godly? Or is it sinful?"

Most of the TV shows that we watch are stories of some sort. Even the news is wrought with stories of drama. Let's take the time to review some of the basics about stories that we were taught in our high school English classes.

Stories revolve around a plot line. Along the plot line we meet the main characters of the story and the whole thing progresses because some sort of conflict develops between the characters. The story reaches a climax where the conflict is resolved and then the story concludes. The conflict between the characters is the essence of the story. It provides the action. It provides the drama and it is always one of two main types of conflict: man vs. man (sometimes man vs. himself) or man vs. God (sometimes man vs. his environment). There are no other sources of conflict, and you cannot have a story without conflict.

Life by its very nature is full of con-flict. We have a world full of conflict because we have a world full of sin (Romans 5:12). If I am in conflict with God, it is because I am sinning against Him. If I am in conflict with my neighbour it is because I am sinning against him, or he against me. Without sin there would ultimately be no conflict because without sin we would not be selfish, and conflict would never arise. If you think about it, what else is the Bible other than the story of man's conflict against both God and other men, and God's planned resolution of that conflict? God has told us how we are to resolve conflict. We resolve it by turning from our own selfish ambition and obeying His laws. He commands us to love the Lord, to love our neighbor and to forgive those who sin against us.

Virtually always, our TV networks begin with the assumptions that there is no God and that all men are not basically sinful. They write their scripts based on these foolish presuppositions (see Psalm 14:1; 1 John 1:8). They still need conflict to create a story and they have to provide some kind of resolution to that conflict. But the problem is that because they proceed without God, they teach us to resolve conflict without God or His Word. When do we ever find the protaganist (hero) of a telelision show or movie saying in the midst of either sinning or being sinned against, "I wonder what the Bible says about this?" Never! Why is it then that when we Christians "just need a break" or "just need to relax" we run to secular television shows produced by depraved unregenerate minds, where we are taught ungodly ways of resolving our conflicts?

The reason why Christians flock to the tube (plop!) is because we have become dependent on television and dependent on being entertained. Why this dependency? Because we have allowed ourselves to be confused between what we need and what we want, and our wants (mistaken for "our rights") have supplanted our needs. God tells us what our needs are and He provides for them. Our sinful nature tells us what we want and the world supplies it. We need rest. We need peaceful minds. We need sleep. We need food. God supplies these when we turn to Him and prayerful meditation on His Word. Our minds want to be lazy. We want to be entertained. We want to escape from reality and the struggles we face in our lives. The world supplies these for us when we turn to television.

Consider Elijah (1 Kings 19). With Jezebel's death threat on his life he was a troubled man. His problem was a confusion of his wants with his needs. He thought that he "just needed a break". Really, he wanted an escape from his struggles. He did not have a television so he ran into the desert. But God met Elijah in the desert when he was a weary man, and there God supplied him with what he really needed (sleep, food and the knowledge of His presence).

Too often we think that we need a brief escape from life. We run to the desert as Elijah did and stick our head in the sand by turning on the television set. If I am really tired, then why don't I take a nap? If I am really tense then why not read the Scriptures. If I am really troubled, then why not pray? And if things are really that bad, then why not talk it over with my spouse or another fellow believer? Why, oh why, do we listen to the world?

Our problem is that we are looking to the world to meet our need for a Sabbath rest (often confused with "relaxation"). It never will. The world and its television producers promise to fulfill something that they cannot, and yet we trust them to continue trying. Psychologists call this an addiction. The Bible calls it bondage.

The Christian home is a place of refuge where we can rest, so let's get the world and its mockery of God out of our living rooms. Let's stop being like the man who "entered his house and rested his hand on the wall, only to have a snake bite him"(Amos 5:19b). 

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