4. What has happened to the morals of the world, and how do the popular forms of entertainment verify this?
4 Obviously the worldwide moral environment has worsened. Many in the world have “come to be past all moral sense.” (Eph. 4:19) This is apparent in the forms of entertainment that thrive today. Why single out entertainment? Because we can learn much about a person’s inclinations from what he does after his regular working hours, when he can do what he wants to do. What a person does with his free time, when he is “off duty,” as it were, tells much about what he is really like. Judging from the notoriously bad forms of entertainment that are popular today, the moral quality of today’s world is quite low. But is such baseness affecting you?
5. Why is it timely that we consider counsel from the book of Ephesians?
5 Remember, we are not the first Christians to live during a period of sunken morality. The description of persons “past all moral sense” applied to some who lived in the Mideastern city of Ephesus during the infancy of Christianity. The apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Christians should be of utmost importance to us, for in it he gets to the bottom of what it means to walk as “children of light.” His counsel is truly relevant in these critical “last days” when many professed Christians are “lovers of pleasures.”—2 Tim. 3:1-7, 13.
HOW THE NATIONS WALK
6, 7. (a) At Ephesians 4:17, Christians are urged to cease to do what? (b) How were people of the nations “walking” in the first century?
6 At Ephesians 4:17 Paul urged his fellow Christians “no longer [to] go on walking just as the nations also walk in the unprofitableness of their minds.” How were people of the nations then “walking”? A first-century eyewitness confessed:
“Men seek pleasure from every source. No vice remains within its limits; . . . We are overwhelmed with forgetfulness of that which is honourable. Man . . . is now slaughtered for jest and sport . . . it is a satisfying spectacle to see a man made a corpse.”*
Without any genuine goal in life many persons overemphasized amusement, seeking pleasure from any source.
7 Ancient Ephesus was well suited to provide for one’s recreational desires. It contained a massive 25,000-seat amphitheater and a stadium or racecourse that could offer spectacles to delight any fancy. These structures were products of the existing world empire, Rome, of which one historian said: “The moral condition of the empire is, indeed, in some respects one of the most appalling pictures on record.”
8. (a) Ephesians 4:18 calls attention to persons with what kind of heart, and what did the Greek word originally mean? (b) Did such a condition develop suddenly?
8 Paul described the people as being “in darkness mentally, . . . because of the insensibility of their hearts.” (Eph. 4:18) Their hearts were without feeling. The Greek word for “insensibility” can be traced back to the description of a stone that was harder than marble. The word was used in medicine to refer to the chalk stone that can gradually form in some joints of the body till all action is paralyzed. Slowly the hearts of such bedarkened ones had become dulled, insensitive, as hard as a stone. This did not happen overnight, but was a gradual process. Their choice of entertainment directly contributed to the process. How so?
9, 10. What was the most popular form of entertainment during the first century, and what effect did this have on the spectators?
9 Do you know what form of entertainment was the most popular at the time? The gladiatorial games, where man was often pitted against man or animal in a fight to the death. Imagine the scene: The stadium is packed with thousands of spectators, some sitting under the shade of a gorgeous silk awning. Delicate music and the aroma of perfumed water flowing through the aisles provides a pleasant background that covers the sounds and smells of death. Suddenly the whole throng rises in a frenzy of shouting: “Kill him! Lash him! Brand him! Why does he meet the sword in so cowardly a way? Why does he strike so feebly?” All this organized butchery was done, as one who attended the games said, for “some fun, wit, and relaxation.”
10 Persons who could watch such violent encounters, whose eyes could gloat on such gore, found other forms of entertainment dull and insipid. As one historian summarized, it “destroyed the nerve of sympathy for suffering which distinguishes the human from the brute creation.”
11. True or false?−Since the gladiatorial games are no more, today’s entertainment cannot produce persons with ‘insensible hearts.’ Why do you so answer?
11 An unbelievable condition, you might say. But does not a comparable situation exist today? True, the gladiatorial contests are long gone, yet note the experience of one news reporter:
“Kill her! Let her have it again! On cue, the killer did ‘let her have it.’ He shot bullets into her. . . . Those ordering the execution—three persons sitting behind me in the theatre were, in every other respect, average moviegoers.”
An isolated case? Hardly. The fact is that in many lands the most popular movies and television programs often are those that feature violence. Such entertainment has helped to produce heartless persons, who have “ceased to feel pain,” or any stings of conscience.—Eph. 4:19, Kingdom Interlinear Translation.
GIVEN OVER TO LOOSE CONDUCT
12. (a) Ephesians 4:19 gives what additional description of how people of the nations were walking? (b) What does “loose conduct” mean, and did the entertainment of that time reflect it?
12 The apostle Paul adds that people of the nations not only had ‘dulled hearts,’ but also “gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.” (Eph. 4:19) He also spoke of “fornication” and of things too “shameful even to relate.” (Eph. 5:3, 12) In the first century, again it was entertainment, this time the stage or theater, that contributed greatly to these practices. What could be viewed?
“The adventures of deceived husbands, adulteries and amorous intrigues formed the staple of the plots. Virtue was made a mock of, . . . everything sacred and worthy of veneration was dragged in the mire. In obscenity, . . . in impure speeches and exhibitions which outraged the sense of shame, these spectacles exceeded all besides. Ballet dancers threw away their dresses and danced half naked, and even wholly naked, on the stage. Art was left out of account, every thing was designed for mere sensual gratification.”—The Conflict of Christianity with Heathenism, by Gerhard Uhlhorn, p. 120.
How shocking! It is the very epitome of “loose conduct,” for the original Greek word conveys a readiness for any pleasure. It is a shameless disregard for decency where one ceases to care what people say or think.
13. Is similar “loose conduct” readily apparent in some of today’s forms of entertainment?’
13 Is it any different today? Sexual immorality has saturated the fare offered by the entertainment media. In some countries, pornographic movies have been shown even on the television screen, thereby reaching right into the home. Does the audience respond? In Italy, when a pornographic film was shown on TV, “the city all but came to a standstill while the show was on.”
14, 15. (a) What does “greediness” (Eph. 4:19) mean, and do forms of entertainment today create such? (b) Can dedicated Christians be affected by viewing as entertainment material that features sexual immorality?
14 Describing the context of many movies and the attitude of people, one writer said:
“In a majority of the new films, naked sex scenes—heterosexual, incestuous, or homosexual—are staples, . . .” He concluded, “We have, in short, now reached a state in our society when anything goes, where all is permitted, and where no limits are placed on the appetites of the individual, on the gratification of his desires and fantasies.”
15 Such individuals are, just as the apostle Paul describes, persons who “work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.” Yes, “greediness” (“having more,” Kingdom Interlinear Translation), an avaricious desire to glut one’s appetite for the unseemly and to satisfy one’s emotions at whatever the moral cost. (Eph. 4:19) Could not the viewing of such depraved material affect a Christian’s thinking? One who watched several movies of this nature admitted:
“You never forget those scenes, [depicting sexual immorality] the more you think about them the more you find yourself wanting to do what you’ve seen . . . The movie makes you think you’re really missing out on something.” Another added: “You start wondering what it would be like.”
This may not be the experience of everyone, but the danger is there. Our minds can be subtly influenced.
Lucius Seneca (4 B.C.E.?—65 C.E.) Epistle 95, #33.