Christians are bombarded with secular entertainment options every day. TV shows, movies, and music options are more abundant than they have ever been before thanks to the increase in streaming options.
As disciples of Christ, it’s important that we understand how to navigate the amount of influence that these forms of entertainment have on us. Does the Bible say that we should completely avoid all forms of entertainment? If it doesn’t, is there a right way and a wrong way to consume the entertainment options that we have?
The answers to those questions are found in Scripture, even though the Bible was written thousands of years before the entertainment options that we have were created.
Is Secular Entertainment Wrong?
1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)
“I have the right to do anything,” you say-but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” but not everything is constructive.
One of the most common questions that Christians ask involves whether or not secular entertainment is a sin.
Is God sitting on his throne in Heaven, waiting to punish you the first time you watch a secular movie? Does God get angry with us when we turn on secular music? Does the King of Kings and Lord of Lords withdraw Himself from us when we binge watch our favorite TV show, even if it’s not a Christian program?
If you’ve struggled with these questions, allow yourself to breathe a sigh of relief. God does not get angry with us when we watch a movie, a TV show, or listen to music that isn’t Christian-themed.
Obviously, Paul didn’t have to deal with the forms of entertainment that we have access to today when he wrote his letter to the Corinthian Church. In fact, Paul was talking about the details of the law that dictated the types of food that people ate. However, we can still apply the principles that he outlined in these verses to our own entertainment choices.
It’s not a sin to watch a TV show or movie that isn’t based on Scripture. It’s not inherently sinful to listen to other types of music. However, it’s important to realize that those forms of entertainment are not spiritually beneficial. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of secular entertainment that you take in.
Paul was speaking of dietary restrictions presented by the Law of Moses. He acknowledged that since he was under the Law of Grace, he could eat whatever he wanted, but that those things were not spiritually beneficial.
In the same way, there are no commands in Scripture mandating that we completely avoid any forms of secular entertainment. However, we should be sure that we balance our entertainment in the same way the we balance our diets.
Entertainment is a Good Thing
Proverbs 17:22 (NIV)
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Yes, God wants His people to be happy. While holiness is God’s standard for living, He does want us to laugh and enjoy the leisure time that we spend with others. With this in mind, there are times where secular entertainment can be a good thing.
Take a moment and think about your favorite movie. Even if you have seen it dozens of times, the film still brings you joy. According to the American Heart Association, there are multiple benefits associated with feeling happy.
When you are happy, your brain releases chemicals that improve other parts of your body. For example, the endorphins that you release while happy are proven to reduce stress. Those same chemicals lower your blood pressure, and they burn off excess body fat.
Finally, happiness results in better sleep, which provides its own long list of health benefits.
Solomon lived thousands of years ago, but even he recognized the benefits of being happy, which is why he wrote that happiness is good medicine. Secular entertainment in moderation can bring us happiness, which provides a long list of health benefits.
Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.
BMC, a group that does surveys and psychological studies published a report in December of 2022 about binge watching. After interviewing hundreds of subjects, they reported that 90% of the people who participated in their study acknowledged that they felt as if they had no control over their binge-watching tendencies.
Before you scoff at that number, assuming that those people simply couldn’t control themselves, how many times do you say that you’re just going to watch one more episode of a show on your favorite streaming service before allowing that “one more” episode to turn into two, three, or four more?
Most of us don’t plan on sitting down to watch an entire season of a show, but we allow ourselves to get pulled in.
God does not demand that we completely abstain from watching secular TV shows or movies. He doesn’t require that we only listen to worship music. However, He wants us to practice self-control when it comes to those things.
The National Institute of Health has been conducting studies about the impact of entertainment that portrays acts of violence for decades. While their methods of study have evolved over the years, the findings remain the same. Children and adults who expose themselves to significant amounts of media portrayals of violence are significantly more likely to exhibit aggressive or violent behavior than those who do not.
The things that we watch and listen to do have an impact on our behavior. That’s why it’s important that we practice self-control with those things.
In 2 Timothy 2:17, Paul writes that the Spirit of God living within us gives us self-control. However, we must submit ourselves to His leadership and authority, allowing that self-control to become a prominent part of who we are.
The remote control or mobile device that you hold in your hand while consuming secular entertainment gives you control over how much you take in. The Spirit of God living within you gives you the personal control over how much you take in. Use the control that you have.
Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.
There are countless examples of God telling His people to use discernment throughout Scripture. Discernment is the ability to know when something is becoming a problem for you. When dealing with the influence of media on your life, influence is paramount.
In this verse from Philippians, Paul tells the believers there to primarily focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Obviously, these things all apply to God. Paul was telling the Philippian Christians, and in turn, each of us, to make the things of God our primary focus in life.
This doesn’t mean that you never watch a TV show that you like. It doesn’t mean that you never watch a secular movie or listen to secular music. However, it does mean that you don’t allow those forms of entertainment and the ideas that they promote to become the primary focus in your life.
A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me to manage the entertainment that I enjoy in a way that pleases You. Give me discernment to know what I should avoid completely, and how to enjoy the things I enjoy in moderation. In Christ’s name, Amen.