Let’s be honest, we all enjoy watching movies. They are entertaining and enjoyable. But how should we think about movie watching as Christians? Should we even watch movies? Let’s talk about it.
Do Not Watch List
When it comes to movies and shows, the easiest thing would be to have a big list with the headings: “Do Watch” and “Do NOT Watch.” But that is not possible. No matter the movie, there will always be someone who could be offended and there will always be someone who is not offended. But, on the flip-side, that doesn’t mean that you should not have standards when watching movies or TV.
Should Christians Watch Movies?
But before we get into HOW to watch movies, I think the first question we need to ask is, SHOULD Christians watch movies/TV to God’s glory? Especially after the year we’ve had where we’ve all be at home more, this question is important!
Paul gives us some instruction regarding entertainment in 1 Timothy. He says in chapter 4, “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” Then later, Chapter 6, verse 17 says, “Charge [Christians] not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
Paul is saying that, yes, God wants us to enjoy all of life in Christ. Entertainment in and of itself is not sinful.
Scriptural Grid from John Piper
I was really helped by these words from John Piper:
“Seek to bring every act into connection with the Lord. And the more difficult that is, the more likely it is that the act should be replaced with something more fruitful. In other words, put everything through this grid. I’ll give you three Bible verses.
‘Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31). That’s what I mean by ‘bringing every act into connection with the Lord.’
‘Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:17). So bring everything into connection to the name of the Lord Jesus.
‘Let all that you do be done in love’ (1 Corinthians 16:14).
These are three tests or three ways to connect everything to Jesus: all for his glory, all in the name of Jesus, and all in the cause of loving others.”
According to this helpful grid of Bible verses, I believe we can enjoy movies to God’s glory. Movies can be a helpful gift from the Lord and give us insight into the world we live in and the people we live with, which can help us give God glory for the salvation He’s given us, see that Jesus is far above any man-made idol, and share the gospel with other people.
The Art Form Closest to Reality
One of the reasons movies are so enticing and enjoyable is because they are the art form that is closest to reality.
If you think about it, all of life is like a movie. We see the world through a “screen” that is our eyeballs. Beyond our eyeballs, we can’t see. We only have the rectangular field of vision available to us.
And that is exactly what a movie is, you have a screen that is not infinite, a moving picture, just like what we see every day! That’s how we can get sucked into a movie so that we are not aware of anything else going on in the room. We’re “living” in the movie for those 90 minutes.
Because movies are so powerful and enjoyable, we need to have discernment when watching them. Like I said, there’s not an ultimate list of what NOT to watch. So we will have to watch with discernment. But there are a few ways to watch movies and shows with discernment.
How to Watch with Discernment
1. Study Your Bible
First, you need to Study your Bible.
One of my college professors said, “The key to a wise and godly life is to fill the heart and mind with Scripture and then make your own decisions based upon the broad principles and the direct precepts found in the Word.”
We need to be reading our Bibles for all of life, but definitely for discernment when it comes to movies! Hebrews 4:12 says that “the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Even though movies were not around when the Bible was written, it is living and active, able to cut through lies and show you the truth. Reading and studying your Bible daily is how you get to know God, and get to know what He wants for our lives.
Knowing your Bible is the best way to know what you should not watch on the screen.
Then, when you’ve studied your Bibles, your need to listen to your conscience.
2. Listen to Your Conscience
The Lord has given us a conscience to help guide our lives. When we are immersed in Scripture, our conscience is rightly informed. And when our conscience is rightly informed, we need to listen and act upon what our conscience tells us.
So, if you’re watching something and your conscience gives you that feeling that you know you shouldn’t be watching it, then turn it off. Or maybe you’re reading a review of a movie and you know you shouldn’t watch it with your friends, find something else to do or suggest a different movie. These small acts of listening to your conscience will help you create a standard for watching movies and shows that will bring glory to God.
Don’t ever be ashamed to turn something off or change the channel or walk out of the room if you have to so that you can obey what your conscience is telling you.
3. Don’t View Movies as “Just” Entertainment.
Thirdly, do not only view movies as entertainment. There’s really nothing for believers that is solely entertainment. Everything is sacred for believers. While we enjoy things in life, every decision we make, no matter how small matters to God.
To quote my professor again, he says, “Everything has meaning and relevance because God rightly claims sovereignty over all aspects of our lives, no matter how minor they appear… Movies are very philosophical in that they represent what we believe, what we dream of, what we hope for, and what we are at the core of our being.”
Romans 1:18 talks about how sinners suppress the truth that God has made evident to and within them. But no matter how much it is suppressed, it is not totally eradicated. We can see that the truth often comes out in movies. That is why we cannot just let movies entertain us. We need to be discerning as we watch them to see what messages they are sending.
Here are two examples of major messages that many movies send today: Damsels in Distress and General Goodness of the World.
Damsel in Distress Stories
Take a look at all Disney princess movies and they have one thing in common. They all long for a Savior. There’s usually a big problem and they are looking for a superhero who will save the day and rescue the damsel in distress.
The Bible is the ultimate damsel-in-distress story. We, the church, are the damsel in dire distress. We’re lost in our sin, darkness, and heading for eternity in hell because of it. But Jesus comes and rescues us by giving His own life. And, to take the analogy even further, we, the church, become Jesus’s bride in Revelation 19 and we get married and “live happily ever after,” if you will, in eternity with Him.
So even in the Disney princess movies, they are sending a message of looking for salvation. And I’m pretty sure the writers at Disney are not born again believers, they are simply trying to suppress the truth and it comes out in the philosophical art form of movies.
“The World is Generally Good”
Another example of this is that the world will often tell you that people are generally good. But we know from the Bible that that is a suppression of the truth. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned.”
So the message from the world is that we are all good. But have you noticed that every single movie has some sort of conflict in it? There’s not a movie out there that has a perfect family, no problems, no fights, no trials, where they all live happily, grow old and have grandkids. It doesn’t exist! And if it did, no one would watch it!
That is where the world has suppressed truth that is written in the heart of every human… we are not inherently good, and every story of every movie proves that truth.
There are many examples of this suppression and springing up of truth. But that is why we cannot view movies as simply entertainment. We need to actively watch movies by taking in what they are promoting and saying, then comparing that with the truth of God’s Word and either rejoicing that the movie got the truth right (and that’s not usually the case) or rejoicing that God always gets it right even when the movie may get it wrong.
We are “in” the world, we will see sin and all its effects in life. Seeing it is not sinful. But letting it guide or change your thinking is sinful. So we must be vigilant when watching movies to analyze the world-views they are pushing and compare them to Scripture so that we know the truth and can live in light of the truth of the Bible.
4. Learn About World-Views.
You have to know about how others view the world in order to decipher the messages in movies. There are many resources for learning about world-views, but I will share about two that have helped me.
When learning for yourself as a woman, read You Who by Rachel Jankovic.
When learning to help your kids understand world-views, read Mama Bear Apologetics.
And one book I haven’t finished yet, is called Consequences of Ideas by R. C. Sproul.
Those three books can really help you as you sort through all the messages found in movies today. As you learn more about world-views, you will find that there are many different ones in prominent movies today. But, you will also find that there is never one that fully satisfies save for the world-view of Christianity.
So, should Christians watch movies? Yes, discerningly.
How about you? Do you watch movies or find it hard to do so? Let me know in the comments below!
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