Tuning Out Television

Mark Herbster

FrontLineJuly/August 2008

Technological advances have brought new challenges into Christian families. Most families own at least one television set, and many Christians are struggling with a daily battle with television and its ungodly influences. Television has a great impact on our lives: it teaches our children; it trains our culture. Though there is nothing necessarily wrong with having a television set, the potential exists for a great deal of evil to come into the home through this medium.

The average American watches over four hours of television a day. One study recently reported that sixty-three percent of all teens have their own television. Teens between the ages of twelve and seventeen watch an average of twenty-two hours a week.

Those who control the content of the television and movie industry are not friendly to Biblical values. One-half of all those who control the media do not claim to be associated with any religious group; eighty-six percent seldom or never attend church. An astounding eighty-four percent of media moguls believe that the government should not have any laws regarding sex; ninety-five percent believe homosexuality is not wrong. If you are not discerning about the use of TV in your home, these are the people who are teaching your children.

God’s people are allowing people and values to come into their homes through television that would not be permitted by any other means. Television teaches values, but the values taught in most programming are directly opposed to those values of a Christian. Parents and teens must learn to deal with television in a Biblical manner. Three basic principles found in Psalm 101:3 are fundamental to right thinking concerning television viewing. The verse states, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.”

It is very important that we understand what God says about what we put before our eyes. There are a number of principles in Scripture regarding the importance of right thinking and right decision making concerning that which we set before our eyes. Psalm 101:3 provides some important guiding principles.

Attitude of Surrender

Surrender to God and His Word is a vital principle in guarding that which comes into your eyes and our mind. Consider the attitude of surrender that David had toward God reflected throughout Psalm 101:

I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O Lord, will I sing. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry [shall not be established] in my sight. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord.

The psalmist has an attitude of surrender. His surrender to God is seen in the two words “I will.” One of the areas of his surrender is in his eyes. The psalmist said that he would not put in front of his eyes any wicked, worthless, destructive, or base thing. The word translated “thing” is used 807 times as “word.” And so the verse could be translated, “I will not set, put, or place any base, wicked, or worthless word before my eyes.” Do you tune out the television when bad language is used? Do you turn away from a program that uses God’s name in vain or uses vulgar, base speech?

Surrender Your Eyes

The eyes are the gateway to the mind. Job said “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that if a man looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. Moral purity is linked to surrendering your eyes, the gateway to your mind. Psalm 119:37 urges us to “turn away [our] eyes from beholding vanity.” There is a great deal of emptiness on television from which we must turn away our eyes.

Ecclesiastes 6:9 tells us that “better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire.” Your eyes should be focused on that which is right and good. Proverbs 4:25 reminds us to “let [our] eyes look right on, and let [our] eyelids look straight before [us].” Surrendering your eyes to God means that you are willing to turn away, turn off, or tune out the television set when wickedness appears.

Your eyes are the mirror of your inner being. What you see, that which you look at, is what you think upon and in time will act upon.

Surrender Your Mind

Television and the media will directly affect your mind and your thinking. We have already noted the godless thinking of those who control the media. Second Corinthians 10:5 tells us to cast “down imaginations [reasonings], and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and [bring] into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” You must put up barriers to protect your mind from the vanity and wickedness shown on television. First Peter 1:13, 14 reminds us to “gird up the loins of [our] mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.” God states in Ezekiel 11:5, “I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.” The psalmist prays in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

The Bible tells us to renew our minds in Romans 12:1, 2. If you are feasting on trash, you are not renewing your mind; you must be feasting upon the truth. Philippians 4:8 enjoins, “Whatsoever things are pure … think on these things.”

Your thinking leads to your actions. If you are not guarding your mind or the minds of your children, your family will suffer the consequences of the influence of wicked thinking. Proverbs 23:7 asserts, “For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Romans 8:6 gives a warning and a promise: “to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Your thinking can lead to death, or your thinking can lead to joy and peace.

Personal Aversion to Sin

The second great challenge in approaching television Biblically is to see sin as God sees it and to respond to sin in the same way that God responds. You must hate sin—you must have an aversion toward it. The psalmist says, “I hate the work of them that turn aside.”

Hatred means that you have an emotional attitude toward persons and things that are opposed, detested, and despised and with which you wish to have no contact or relationship. Responding Biblically to television means that you must have the same attitude toward sin and evil as God does.

The psalmist says, “I will not put or place before my eyes any worthless, base or unprofitable act; I absolutely and utterly oppose it. I detest it. I don’t want to have any contact at all with it.” To be sure every believer needs to grow in hatred of sin, and one of ways that you can prove how much you hate sin is to respond to television Biblically. There are at least two reasons believers should have an aversion to sin.

The Love of God Demands It.

God’s love for people necessitated His hatred of evil. He loved the world so much that He sent His Son to die in payment for sin. Psalm 97:10 asserts, “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.” Your love for God requires hating evil. God opposes evil, and if you love Him, you will have an aversion for evil as well. Proverbs 8:13 states, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.”

The Law of God Demands It.

The longest psalm in the Bible—Psalm 119—focuses upon the law of God. Your respect and love for the love of God demands that you hate that which God hates. Psalm 119:104 relates, “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” In verse 113 the psalmist says, “I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.” Verse 128 tells us, “Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” Verse 163 offers this gripping reminder: “I hate and abhor lying; but thy law do I love.”

Adoption of Separation

“It shall not cleave to me.” The word “cleave” is used often in the Old Testament of things physically sticking to each other. It also carries the sense of clinging to someone in affection and loyalty: you have strong affection for another, so you “cleave” to him or her. This is the word that is used to describe the marriage relationship. It also means to keep close to someone or something. The Word-filled believer adopts an attitude of separation from evil.

Godly people do not cleave to sin; they cleave unto the Lord. Deuteronomy 10:20 declares, “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave.” Believers are not to cleave to this world; they are to cleave to the Lord and have a loyal, loving affection our God and His Word.

Are you cleaving to the Lord? Do you have a strong affection and loyalty and desire to be close to Him day in and day out?

God’s people must separate from sin. We are told in 2 Corinthians 6:17 to “come out from among them, and be ye separate … and touch not the unclean thing.” Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 7:1 to “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” The prophet Isaiah cautions in chapter 52, verse 11, “Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing.” The apostle Paul declares in Romans 16:19, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” One of the primary reasons that many Christian young people are not simple concerning evil is the failure to control television’s influence in the home.

Believers are commanded to separate from sinners as well as from sin. Solomon warns in Proverbs 9:6, “Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.” We are to separate from those who do not love God. Believers are not supposed to be like unbelievers; they are to be different, holy. Romans 1:32 describes those who oppose God as “knowing the judgment of God” and “worthy of death.” This verse goes on to warn believers not to take pleasure in those who do things worthy of death.

God’s people must exercise discernment, caution, and prudence in dealing with television. If you have an attitude of surrender, you will yield your eyes and mind to the Lord. Living Biblically means that you have a personal aversion toward sin because the love of God demands it and the law of God necessitates it. Dealing Biblically with television requires separation from sin and from sinners.

Author bio at the time of original publication: Mark Herbster is a full-time evangelist traveling with the Herbster Evangelistic Team (www.herbsterevangelism.org). The Herbster Team is a ministry out of Tri-City Baptist Church in Independence, Missouri. Mark preaches all over the country in revival meetings and youth camps.

(Originally published in FrontLine • July/August 2008. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)