“Why would we go to a movie when we could do something spiritual like pray, read our Bibles, evangelize, or serve the body?” Most of us have heard or used this logic before. I’ve heard (and used) other subjects instead of movies: television, video games, board games, sports, beverage choices, or any hobby. I certainly can remember using this line of reasoning too.
The line of reasoning, on the surface, appears holy and god-exalting. I mean, when we really weigh reading Scripture and watching a movie, who would say a movie is godlier than Scripture? The problem often presents itself when this reasoning is used to denounce and judge a person for watching television, movies, or any other “fun” activity. What prevents the judgment from being godly however, is the accusation often isolates the event from the rest of a person’s life. In other words, there is more to a person’s life than just “watches a movie on Friday nights.” We need to factor the person’s other activities and use of her 166 hours in the week.
Although, often used with good intentions, this line of reasoning fails to properly evaluate godliness. It seems to me freedom issues and godliness are the root principles in this question. What makes a person godly and what activities can he or she then do? Scripture does not say, “Do / do not have a hobby.” Instead, it is gray in some ways and very black and white in others. But hearing a person watches movies should not lead us to conclude, “ungodly.” (Nor should we try to evangelize a person to stop watching movies).
Consider a Person’s Context
I have “movie watcher,” board game playing, sport fanatic, and beer drinking friends. They are dedicated to serving the Lord as evidenced by their entire life. This list is their hobbies. We all have hobbies. But, in reality, those hobbies define not a single friend or person. None of them should be defined, in life, by his or her hobby or “free-time” preferences. Often when we ask the question, we pinpoint one activity while failing to consider a person’s life.
Usually a person will say, “I think we can find a godlier activity to do than watch television.” This is a narrow approach. If I came to you and said, “Johnny, he works 60 hours a week as a manager (Titus 2:9-10), faithfully attends church (Heb 10:25), serves as a deacon (1 Tim. 3:8-10), teaches a Bible Study, financially gives to the church and missions (2 Cor 9:6-15), coaches his kid’s soccer team, has a date night with his wife regularly (Eph 5:25), prays with his kids (Eph 6:4), reads his Bible every morning (Col 3:1-4), is available whenever there is a crisis in the church (Phil 2:1-4), displays the gifts of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), plays Madden on Xbox, and likes to watch Criminal Minds on television.” Would you then turn around and tell me he isn’t a godly faithful man?
So why do we nitpick and blow the television, video games, or any hobby out of proportion?
Now, if I said, “Johnny, 45, lives with his parents, no job, plays video games all day, shows up to church every 8 weeks, and says he’s a Christian.” Sure, let’s talk about how we can evangelize Johnny.
My point is simple. When asking if an issue is okay for a godly person, we need to consider his or her character, faithfulness, and life in general. Let’s boil it down more: have balance. A man who faithfully serves the Lord by faithfully fulfilling his responsibilities, can he have some down time to rest and relax how he sees fit? A married man has five responsibilities to the Lord, manifested towards others: His wife, his family, his job, his church, and his neighbors. You can boil it down to that. A man who faithfully loves, serves, and walks in integrity is a godly man. So why do we fail to consider these activities when talking about a movie? Maybe because we lose sight of how to define godliness?
Now, of course there are some considerations too. Is going to a movie sinful? Answer, maybe. Is going to 50 shades of Gray sinful? Yes. That’s pornography. Is every movie pornography? No. To be honest, using the movie rating index to define holy viewing is unbiblical. God did not develop this system, the world did. I don’t look at what it’s rated. I look at why it’s rated how it’s rated. What is the content? Is it R for violence and adult situations? Or is it R for nudity and sexual content? BIG difference. Shawshank Redemption is rated-R. So is 50 Shades of Gray. I have no problem if you’ve seen Shawshank . . . in fact, if you haven’t, you’re missing a great movie (but I don’t recommend movies). If your conscience is unclear, then DON’T do it. It’s simple.
“But movies are worldly, they can tempt and twist your thinking.” Yes they are and yes they can. But take faithful Johnny. Do I trust he, a mature Christian, can discern the wiles of the world and mentally navigate sinful thinking? Yes I do. We have to navigate this world. In fact, the greatest danger to faithful Johnny is his own heart, not a movie (Mark 7:20-21). Every where Johnny goes, he has to flee sinful temptation and thinking while pursuing righteous thinking and living. His mental battle exists when in church too. But faithful mature Johnny has to learn how to navigate this world no matter where he is. Every where he goes, there is temptation. Isolation isn’t the answer, in fact, it’s foolishness (Prov 18:1).
Johnny has a beer at the end of the week, surely he can find something more holy to do? . . . this one baffles me. Faithful Johnny, who works hard, loves the Lord, serves his church, respected by his wife and family, can’t sit down on Friday night open a beer and say, “Thank you Lord for a great week of working hard to honor your name?” “This beer is the fruit of the labor you provided me due to working hard.” We expect worldly Johnny to idolize his freedoms. But biblical Johnny thanks the Lord for His freedoms and rejoices knowing who provides for him. Biblical Johnny praises the Lord for his freedom.
Biblical Johnny doesn’t take Friday night off from the Lord, he drinks his beer with self-control and a thankful heart. Johnny’s “free time” is and act of worship inline with Deuteronomy 14:26, “You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”
At the end of the day, I trust faithful believers. Faithfulness proves the Spirit is alive and working in them. People who love the Lord will think through their actions. They will be faithful in every area of their life. They will not seek to hide their sin from the Lord or pursue their own lusts. When I know these people and find out he or she likes to play video games, I don’t bat an eye. I trust the Lord who works in and through His people. After all, faithful, godly people pursue the Lord, evidenced by their habitual faithfulness.
** No Johnny’s were personally injured during the writing of this blog.