As a teen, I often wondered what was acceptable to listen to or permissible to watch. In analyzing these thoughts, however, I quickly became too over corrective. Like the Pharisees, I found myself also lost in rules and not caught up in Jesus. I stumbled into strict and rigid lines rather than the freedom that Christ brings in free will. I became shallow, judgmental, and too easily offended, when in reality, I may have been the one causing the offense. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

When I was around fourteen years old, something in my brain told me to take Philippians 4:8 a little too seriously. Yes, we should 100% obey the Bible and only think about right and wholesome things, but when your decisions are made out of rigidness to the law rather than freedom in the one who fulfilled it, are you really living?

I was the queen of flipping the T.V. off on my parents if they dared to tell me what they were watching was an “R” rated movie. I was the master of listening to Christian music and never allowing any other style to reach my ears, even if it had a wholesome meaning. I was the broken and confused girl who, at eighteen years old, realized she was trying to be her own ruler, rather than allowing the Holy Spirit within her to guide and prompt those convictions. I am now the result of these confinements as I watch my boyfriend struggle to make the same decisions I once wrestled.

In Philippians chapter 4 verse 8, Paul remarks, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8, ESV). And in a sense, he is warning us to Be Careful Little Eyes What You See…For the Father Up Above Is Looking Down In Love. Yet rather than seeing Him look down in love, we construe that to looking down in disappointment, chaos, and confusion.

More optimistic than being a tyrant and Pharisee of religious talk without the heart and soul of Jesus, follow these five tips the next time you’re trying to decide what type of media you should engage in:

  1. Be Careful Little Eyes What You See
  • The Bible notes in Matthew 5:29 that if your eye causes you to sin, you should “tear it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29, ESV). Though that might sound a bit harsh, Jesus wants us to realize that the eye is the guide of our bodies (Matthew 6:22). It is the driving force of who we are, what we become, and who we grow to be.
  • If a movie, book, or choice of entertainment explicitly degrades Jesus Christ and His message, I would suggest you fill your eyes with something else.
  • For example, my boyfriend cannot watch Stranger Things because the language used by the characters convict him. When it comes to myself, however, I am not convicted by that. I do agree that the characters shouldn’t use curse words, yet I can enjoy the show and gain positive themes from it that make it permissible for me. As a teacher, my students love this show, and it is a testimony to be able to say, “No, you should not use those words, but yes, look at the way Will’s friends fought for him, or Eleven fought to save them.”
  • If we’re able to “be in the world, but not of it” (1 John 2:15, ESV), whatever we see with our eyes will soon internalize itself into what we become. If something isn’t inherently clear as to whether it’s appropriate or not, ask God for clarity. More times than not, your conscience will lead the way to this decision, and if you’re questioning it, there is a reason.
  • We know that things like lust, sex, and profanity (Job 31:1) should be avoided like the red plague, but not all shows are cookie-cutter molds with clear cut answers. Personal discretion aligned with Scripture is always advised.
  1. Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear
  • Similar to what your eyes see, your ears can also contribute to who or whom you listen. If you’re always filling your Spirit with lies and degrading music or voices, the result will be a defeated and defiled being.
  • Thus, when it comes to deciding what to listen to, be on guard for what these words say. Personally speaking, I have fallen captive to listening to a song so many times because it was catchy. Low and behold, however, I had no clue what it was saying, which was not good.
  • If a song curses every other word and has no value, I would not listen to it. However, if a secular song is just secular, meaning it doesn’t say “I love Jesus” in every line, and its message is appropriate, I don’t see anything wrong with enjoying that song.
  • God doesn’t want us to live strict lives full of rules and regulations. He isn’t a dictator just waiting for us to mess up and watch or listen to something we shouldn’t. He’s given us grace and free-will to make these decisions according to His prompting Spirit within us.
  1. Be Careful Little Tongue What You Say
  • In the world in which we live, it is apparent that words are all around us. Some are good and wholesome, and some are bad and morally degrading. It is inevitable that at some point in your life, you will hear curse worse and profane language, and if you haven’t, you soon will. What is controllable, however, is what comes out of your mouth.
  • James 3:6 reminds us that our tongues have such power; power that can start a raging wildfire. It is up to us rather that fire is used for the purifying and cleansing of our souls or a monstrous and wicked consuming flame leading to Hell (Proverbs 18:21).
  • If you can watch a secular movie that has the occasional curse word without being tempted to talk that way, then I would say you’re safe to view it. If you’re tempted, though, or find yourself after watching those things more likely to use those I would run like you’re sprinting, far from that destructive fire. Remember, our words reflect our hearts (Matthew 15:18). 
  1. Be Careful Little Heart Whom You Trust
  • In the end, we should trust in Jesus Christ alone to help us make these decisions (Psalm 62). You can get advice from friends, family members, and society, but only Christ and the Holy Spirit within you can help you to make these decisions correctly.
  • In this world, there will be people that do not agree with you. Like the example with my boyfriend, we have chosen to agree to disagree, but that doesn’t make one of us a better Christian than the other.
  • Some forms of media are explicitly evil and should be avoided, but the majority try to blend the lines we work so hard to distinguish. Only the Lord knows the heart and motives behind the decisions we make, and that must be the place from which we seek our validation (1 John 3:20). 
  1. Be Careful Little Mind What You Think
  • Proverbs 23:7 hints that what we think we are. Thus, when it comes to what we watch or listen to, this is crucial because we’re filling our minds with thoughts that will sooner or later circle back around.
  • Watching lust, lies, sex scenes, and porn will not produce fruitful thinking.
  • Watching bloodbaths, evil, deception, and satanic motifs will not grow your faith.
  • But learning to discern whether or not a show or music choice is acceptable will surely develop your Christian growth. And personally speaking, asking the questions I’ve listed here have been beyond beneficial for me. I also love using that analyzes all the details. 

It’s extreme to say that we should never listen or watch anything secular. After all, I believe that this can be used to testify goodness in a way that the world would not expect. It’s another extreme, however, to say that unless something is marked “Christian” with a label, it’s automatically wrong or that we are permissible to watch anything. Both are unacceptable, and both lead to places we don’t want to be in: Places of tyranny and judgment and places of fake holiness too caught up in standards to realize the grace God has given us.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23, Scripture reminds us that everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. We need to be on guard not only for our hearts, minds, and souls at all times but for those who are around us (1 Timothy 4:12). When making decisions for the media, ask yourself these questions, and talk to God about them. Our goal should never be “What can I get away with,” “Or how much can I blur the lines,” but “How can what I watch, see, hear, do, and engage with, bring glory to Him.”

Our media doesn’t have to be marked “Christian” for it to be good, pleasing, and acceptable to God. In fact, many Pharisees and Saudducees knew the talk or possessed the outward laws of being a Christian, but they didn’t walk the walk, and that’s made all the difference (Matthew Matthew 23). 

It’s all about your conscience and reasoning behind the decisions you’ve made. If you’re listening to music that curses and goes against Scripture, I wouldn’t suggest you listen to it. But if you’re watching a secular movie with your family and the film has a majority of nuggets you can use to speak truths about the Gospel, don’t run to turn the T.V. off on them or reprimand them for watching it. Some people can watch or listen to things that are secular and subtract the bad (or fast forward) and not be sinning, while for others, partaking in these things would lead them into direct sin.

While I cannot tell you what to watch or not watch, I can tell you what God’s Word says about the things we fill our minds with. 

Agape, Amber