Technology allows entertainment to surround us as never before. What does God say about guarding our hearts and minds by not watching bad things?
With today’s many streaming platforms, there are so many choices that we can find ourselves endlessly sifting through seemingly unlimited options, trying to find something that might grab our interest.
But there’s also the more serious concern of whether the content is appropriate from God’s point of view.
Problems commonly found on most streaming platforms include material that’s sexually suggestive or pornographic, that promotes unbiblical behavior or that uses profanity or excessively graphic violence.
What does God say about watching bad things?
Why should it matter what we choose to watch in the privacy of our own home? After all, we’re not really hurting anyone, are we? Does it really matter to God what we’re watching on our television or what we’re streaming online?
If we are to properly “walk worthy of the LORD, fully pleasing Him” (Colossians 1:10), then we should be concerned with His point of view.
God created us and therefore knows us inside and out. He understands how our minds work (1 Kings 8:39; Jeremiah 17:10; Romans 8:27). He is keenly aware of our susceptibilities.
Because He knows human beings so well, He provides some words of caution to us all. Technology has changed, but the timeless lessons of God’s Word remain consistent.
So, what does the Bible say about watching bad things?
Guard your mind and heart
Of course, there’s no verse that specifically tells us to avoid watching inappropriate material on television or other digital devices. But the principle is discussed in detail throughout the Bible.
God is so concerned about what we allow into our mind that He tells us to guard it diligently: “Keep your heart [inner man, mind] with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
We’re encouraged to fill our minds with things that are noble, pure and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
What the Bible has to say about sex, violence and profanity
God’s Word provides clear direction on what should be avoided. Here’s a small sample of passages that give warnings about wrong influences that incite sexual lust, violence or profanity:
- “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
- “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people” (1 Corinthians 5:9).
- “Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways” (Proverbs 3:31, English Standard Version). Romans 1:30 and 2 Timothy 3:3 also show that God does not want us to be violent and brutal.
- “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).
- “Neither [let there be] filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:4).
Avoid the works of the flesh
And we are to completely avoid the works of the flesh, which are very harmful to us:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
Consider how today’s entertainment wallows in, glorifies or celebrates so many of these sins. For a deeper study, see our practical blog post series on the works of the flesh, starting with “Fighting the Works of the Flesh: Adultery.”
Watching inappropriate content is also a serious concern because it ultimately causes desensitization. God is concerned about much more than our own individual actions, though. We mustn’t give even tacit approval of those who practice unrighteous behavior (Romans 1:32). This should give us a new perspective as to what we allow on our digital screens.
We need to ask ourselves, Am I approving of the works of the flesh by supporting programs that prominently feature them?
Put the good stuff in and keep the bad stuff out
It really is a simple and straightforward process: Diligently guard the door to your mind by putting the good stuff in and keeping the bad stuff out. This should apply to every aspect of our life. Honor needs to be given to God in every activity that we engage in, including our choice of entertainment.
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).
Stand against the wiles of the devil
The process may sound simple, but the implementation can be challenging. We’re to stand against the wiles or schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11; see our articles “Snares of the Devil” and “How to Put on the Armor of God”). This is challenging since he uses many different tactics.
There are many dangers to be found among the various streaming options available. Some of those presentations are flagrantly defiant of God’s moral principles, making no attempt to hide their true motives. At other times it can be more difficult to weed out the bad stuff because the influence and agenda are more covert.
Regardless of the tactic that’s used, we should diligently avoid consuming such material because of its harmful influence.
Watching bad things can corrupt and desensitize us
We’re expected to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1). We are to keep ourselves unspotted from the influences of this world (James 1:27). Because “evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33), it is important that we carefully evaluate what we allow to influence our minds.
Watching inappropriate content is also a serious concern because it ultimately causes desensitization. We can come to the point where the guilt of recognizing something as wrong no longer pricks our conscience (see our online article “What Is a Guilty Conscience?”).
Continued exposure to the works of the flesh develops an unhealthy familiarity. We get too comfortable being around sinful things. This also diminishes our defensive reaction to ward off those things.
The human mind is a beautiful creation and very important to God. What we allow inside our heads will undoubtedly influence us—positively or negatively. We must protect ourselves with diligence and keep our minds as pure as we possibly can by avoiding bad things.
As the end of this age approaches, knowledge will continue to increase. New technology will almost certainly come along—providing human beings with still more forms of entertainment.
But the godly principles that are taught through the Holy Scriptures remain timeless and can continue to guide us toward walking in a manner that’s pleasing to God.
Take the next step by reading our helpful article “What Do You Do in Your Free Time?”
Sidebar: The Evolution of Entertainment Technology
Advances in technology have made inappropriate content more accessible and graphic.
Long ago, Daniel recorded a prophecy that hinted at some of the amazing advances in transportation and information technology we see today:
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4).
Have you ever wondered about the thoughts that might have run through Daniel’s mind upon hearing these prophetic words? Could he have even fathomed the countless advancements that we enjoy today?
These advances make the issue of wisely choosing our entertainment all the more urgent.As knowledge has continued to increase, human beings (especially in Western societies) have been given access to incredible technology at their very fingertips.
This can certainly be seen in the entertainment industry, where vast resources are poured into the development of new systems and devices—and new, interesting content.
Consider the television that’s most likely sitting in your home right now. The first electronic television that was demonstrated in San Francisco in 1927 looked quite different from the sleek displays that are being manufactured today, around 100 years later.
The pursuit of ever better, more efficient and less expensive technology seems to be never-ending. As a result, the television became so commonplace that nearly every U.S. household owned one before the turn of the millennium.
Similar trends can be seen in regard to Internet access and usage. Recent research shows that nearly 92 percent of people in the U.S. have access to the Internet. Around two-thirds of people around the world use the Internet.
The download speeds of the fastest dial-up modem 30 years ago are laughable by today’s standards. Now, even very large files can be downloaded nearly instantaneously and technological advancements have provided a way for television shows and movies to be streamed via the Internet. This is something that was completely unheard of a few decades ago!
Many households are taking advantage of this integration between television and the Internet. New consumer research finds that 88 percent of all U.S. households have a subscription to at least one streaming service.
These advances make the issue of wisely choosing our entertainment all the more urgent.