“Do all things for God’s glory.”—1 CORINTHIANS 10:31.
1, 2. What choice do we need to make regarding entertainment?
IMAGINE that you are about to eat a tasty piece of fruit but then notice that a part of it is rotten. What will you do? Well, you could eat the entire fruit, even the bad part; you could throw away the entire fruit, including the bad part; or you could cut the bad part out of the fruit and enjoy the good part. What choice will you make?
2 In a way, entertainment is like that fruit. At times, you want to enjoy some recreation, but you realize that much of the entertainment available today is morally bad, even rotten. So, what will you do? Some might tolerate what is bad and swallow whatever entertainment this world has to offer. Others might avoid all entertainment to make sure that they will not be exposed to anything harmful. Still others might carefully avoid entertainment that is harmful but occasionally enjoy that which is relatively wholesome. What choice should you make in order to keep yourself in God’s love?
3. What will we now consider?
3 Most of us would select the third option. We appreciate the need for some recreation but want to limit our entertainment to what is morally sound. Therefore, we need to consider how we can determine what is wholesome and what is not. First, though, let us discuss what effect our choice of entertainment can have on the worship we render to Jehovah.
“DO ALL THINGS FOR GOD’S GLORY”
4. How should our dedication affect our choice of entertainment?
4 Some time ago, an elderly Witness who was baptized in 1946 observed: “I have made it a point to be present at every baptism talk and to listen carefully, as if it were my own baptism.” Why? He explained, “Keeping my dedication fresh has been an important step in remaining faithful.” You will doubtless agree with that sentiment. Reminding yourself that you promised Jehovah you would use your entire life to serve him motivates you to endure. (Read Ecclesiastes 5:4.) In fact, meditating on your dedication will affect your view not only of the Christian ministry but also of all other areas of life—including entertainment. The apostle Paul underlined that truth when he wrote to Christians in his day: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.”—1 Corinthians 10:31.
5 Everything you do in life is related to your worship of Jehovah. In his letter to the Romans, Paul used a forceful expression to impress this truth on fellow believers. He urged them: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” (Romans 12:1) Your body includes your mind, your heart, and your physical strength. All of these, you use in serving God. (Mark 12:30) Paul speaks of such whole-souled service as a sacrifice. That expression contains an implicit warning. Under the Mosaic Law, a sacrifice that was blemished was rejected by God. (Leviticus 22:18-20) Similarly, if a Christian’s spiritual sacrifice is tainted in some way, it will be rejected by God. How, though, could that happen?
6, 7. How could a Christian taint his body, and what could be the consequences?
6 Paul admonished the Christians in Rome: “Do not . . . go on presenting your bodies [“members,” footnote] to sin.” Paul also told them to “put the practices of the body to death.” (Romans 6:12-14; 8:13) Earlier in his letter, he had given some examples of such “practices of the body.” Regarding sinful mankind, we read: “Their mouth is full of cursing.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:13-18) A Christian would blemish his body if he used his “members,” or body parts, for such sinful practices. For instance, if a Christian today deliberately views such depraved material as pornography or watches sadistic violence, he is “presenting [his eyes] to sin” and is thus tainting his whole body. Any worship that he renders amounts to a sacrifice that is no longer holy and is unacceptable to God. (Deuteronomy 15:21; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 2 Peter 3:11) What a high price to pay for pursuing unwholesome entertainment!
7 Clearly, a Christian’s choice of entertainment has weighty consequences. Surely, then, we want to choose entertainment that will enhance, not taint, our sacrifice to God. Let us now discuss how we can determine what is wholesome and what is not.
“ABHOR WHAT IS WICKED”
8, 9. (a) Entertainment can be broadly divided into what two categories? (b) What forms of entertainment do we reject, and why?
8 In broad terms, entertainment can be divided into two categories. One includes entertainment that Christians definitely avoid; the other is made up of entertainment that Christians may or may not find acceptable. Let us start by considering the first category—entertainment that Christians avoid.
9 As noted in Chapter 1, some forms of entertainment highlight activities expressly condemned in the Bible. Think, for example, of Web sites as well as movies, TV programs, and music that have sadistic or demonistic content or that contain pornography or promote vile, immoral practices. Since such degraded forms of entertainment portray in a positive light activities that violate Bible principles or break Bible laws, they should be shunned by true Christians. (Acts 15:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:8) By rejecting such unwholesome entertainment, you prove to Jehovah that you truly “abhor what is wicked” and consistently “turn away from what is bad.” That way, you have “faith without hypocrisy.”—Romans 12:9; Psalm 34:14; 1 Timothy 1:5.
10. What sort of reasoning about entertainment is dangerous, and why?
10 Some may feel, though, that indulging in entertainment that graphically portrays immoral behavior is harmless. They reason, ‘I may watch it in movies or on TV, but I would never do such things myself.’ Such reasoning is deceptive and dangerous. (Read Jeremiah 17:9.) If we find it entertaining to watch what Jehovah condemns, do we really “abhor what is wicked”? Repeatedly exposing ourselves to wicked conduct will dull our senses. (Psalm 119:70; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2) Such a practice could affect what we do or how we view the sinful conduct of others.
11. How has Galatians 6:7 proved true in regard to entertainment?
11 This has actually happened. Some Christians have committed immoral acts because they were influenced by the entertainment that they habitually watched. They learned the hard way that “whatever a person is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) But such a sad outcome can be avoided. If you carefully sow in your mind what is sound, you will happily reap in your life what is wholesome.—See the box “What Entertainment Should I Choose?”
PERSONAL DECISIONS BASED ON BIBLE PRINCIPLES
12. How does Galatians 6:5 relate to entertainment, and what guidance do we have for making personal decisions?
12 Let us now discuss the second category—entertainment that features activities that are neither directly condemned nor expressly approved in God’s Word. When choosing from such entertainment, each Christian needs to make a personal decision as to what he finds wholesome. (Read Galatians 6:5.) However, when faced with this choice, we are not without guidance. The Bible contains principles, or fundamental truths, that enable us to perceive Jehovah’s way of thinking. By paying attention to such principles, we will be able to perceive “what the will of Jehovah is” in all things, including our choice of entertainment.—Ephesians 5:17.
13. What will move us to avoid entertainment that could displease Jehovah?
13 Understandably, not all Christians have developed their moral perception, or discernment, to the same degree. (Philippians 1:9) Moreover, Christians realize that in the area of entertainment, tastes vary. Therefore, it is not to be expected that all Christians will make exactly the same decisions. Even so, the more we allow godly principles to influence our mind and heart, the more eager we will be to avoid any form of entertainment that could displease Jehovah.—Psalm 119:11, 129; 1 Peter 2:16.
14. (a) What factor should we consider when choosing entertainment? (b) How can we keep Kingdom interests first in life?
14 When choosing entertainment, there is another important factor to consider: your time. While the content of your entertainment reveals what you find acceptable, the amount of time you spend on it reveals what you find important. For Christians, of course, spiritual matters are the most important. (Read Matthew 6:33.) What, then, can you do to make sure that Kingdom interests remain first in your life? The apostle Paul stated: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, making the best use of your time.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Indeed, setting clear limits on the amount of time you set aside for entertainment will help you to have the needed time available for “the more important things”—activities that contribute to your spiritual well-being.—Philippians 1:10.
15. Why is it wise to allow a margin of safety when choosing entertainment?
15 It is also wise to allow a margin of safety when choosing entertainment. What does that mean? Consider once more the example of the fruit. To avoid inadvertently eating what is rotten, you cut out not just the exact area that is bad but also a margin around it. Similarly, it is wise to apply a safety margin in choosing entertainment. A wise Christian avoids not only entertainment that is clearly in violation of Bible principles but also types that are dubious or that seem to include elements that are spiritually unhealthy. (Proverbs 4:25-27) Sticking close to God’s Word will help you to do just that.
“WHATEVER THINGS ARE CHASTE”
16. (a) How may we show that we have Jehovah’s view on morals? (b) How can applying Bible principles become your way of life?
16 When choosing entertainment, true Christians first of all take into account Jehovah’s view. The Bible reveals Jehovah’s feelings and standards. For instance, King Solomon lists several things that Jehovah hates, such as “a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart plotting wicked schemes, and feet that run quickly to evil.” (Proverbs 6:16-19) How should Jehovah’s view affect yours? “O you who love Jehovah,” exhorts the psalmist, “hate what is bad.” (Psalm 97:10) Your choices in entertainment need to show that you truly do hate what Jehovah hates. (Galatians 5:19-21) Keep in mind, too, that what you do in private, more so than in public, reveals what kind of person you really are. (Psalm 11:4; 16:8) Hence, if you have a heartfelt desire to reflect in all aspects of your life Jehovah’s feelings on moral matters, you will always make choices in accord with Bible principles. Doing so will become your way of life.—2 Corinthians 3:18.
17. Before choosing entertainment, what questions should we ask?
17 What more can you do to ensure that you will act in harmony with Jehovah’s way of thinking when choosing entertainment? Reflect on the question, ‘How will this affect me and my standing with God?’ For instance, before deciding whether to watch a certain movie, ask yourself, ‘How will the content of this movie affect my conscience?’ Let us consider what principles have a bearing on that subject.
18, 19. (a) How can the principle found at Philippians 4:8 help us to determine whether our entertainment is wholesome? (b) What other principles can help you to select good entertainment? (See footnote.)
18 A key principle is found at Philippians 4:8, which states: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well-spoken-of, whatever things are virtuous, and whatever things are praiseworthy, continue considering these things.” Granted, Paul was discussing, not entertainment, but the meditations of the heart, which should center on things that please God. (Psalm 19:14) Yet, Paul’s words can be applied in principle to the matter of entertainment. How?
19 Ask yourself, ‘Does my choice of movies, video games, music, or other forms of entertainment fill my mind with “whatever things are chaste”?’ For instance, after you watch a movie, what mental images are left dominating your mind? If they are pleasant, pure, and refreshing, then you know that your entertainment was wholesome. However, if the movie you watched makes you think about things that are unchaste, then your entertainment was unsound, even harmful. (Matthew 12:33; Mark 7:20-23) Why? Because thinking about things that are morally unclean disturbs your inner peace, scars your Bible-trained conscience, and can ruin your relationship with God. (Ephesians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:5, 19) Since such entertainment has a harmful effect on you personally, be determined to avoid it.* (Romans 12:2) Be like the psalmist who prayed to Jehovah: “Turn my eyes away from looking at what is worthless.”—Psalm 119:37.
SEEK THE ADVANTAGE OF OTHERS
20, 21. How does 1 Corinthians 10:23, 24 relate to choosing wholesome entertainment?
20 Paul mentioned a key Bible principle that needs to be taken into account when making decisions on personal matters. He stated: “All things are lawful, but not all things build up. Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” (1 Corinthians 10:23, 24) How does that principle relate to choosing wholesome entertainment? You need to ask yourself, ‘How will the entertainment that I choose affect others?’
21 Your conscience may allow you to enjoy a certain form of entertainment that you view as “lawful,” or acceptable. However, if you notice that other believers with a more restrictive conscience find it objectionable, you may decide not to pursue it. Why? Because you do not want to “sin against your brothers”—or even be “sinning against Christ,” as Paul stated—by making it more difficult for your fellow believers to maintain faithfulness to God. You take to heart the admonition: “Keep from becoming causes for stumbling.” (1 Corinthians 8:12; 10:32) True Christians today heed Paul’s considerate and perceptive counsel by avoiding entertainment that may be “lawful” but does not “build up.”—Romans 14:1; 15:1.
22. Why do Christians allow room for different views in personal matters?
22 There is, though, another side to the matter of seeking the advantage of others. A Christian with a more restrictive conscience should not insist that all in the Christian congregation conform to his narrower view on what is proper entertainment. If he were to do so, he would be like a driver on a highway who insists that all other drivers using the same road hold to the same speed that he prefers. Such a demand would not be reasonable. Out of Christian love, someone with a more confining conscience needs to respect fellow believers whose views on entertainment differ somewhat from his own but are still within the bounds of Christian principles. That way, he lets his “reasonableness become known to all men.”—Philippians 4:5; Ecclesiastes 7:16.
23. How can you make sure that you choose wholesome entertainment?
23 In short, how can you make sure that you choose wholesome entertainment? Reject any kind of entertainment that graphically portrays degraded, immoral activities that are expressly condemned in God’s Word. Follow Bible principles that can be applied to types of entertainment that are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Avoid entertainment that injures your conscience, and be willing to forgo forms of entertainment that might wound the sensitivities of others, especially those of fellow believers. May your firm decision to do so bring glory to God and keep you and your family in his love.