by Dave Hintz
Watching television can be a medium which brings much glory to God. Who can argue that watching the Jesus Film or a biblically sound preacher should wound our conscience? Thus, on the heels of the last article which detailed when watching television is sin, I wanted to address television choices when it’s not a sin.
As I address this issue, it must be pointed out that just because something is not sinful does not mean that it’s worthwhile. For instance, playing a few games of solitary on your computer may not be a sin, but then again is it really worth the time? In the same way the value of television must be measured against alternative activities. Now in an attempt to justify the value of TV, many people point to three basic advantages: 1. It came be used to facilitate family time. 2. It has educational value. 3. You Can Use it to Watch Movies. All three of these reasons have some warrant, but are there better options, or perhaps pitfalls which accompany them?
“It’s Family Time: Growing up, I have found memories of popping popcorn, gathering the family around, and watching our favorite TV show – Family Ties. And no doubt many of you have wonderful times together as a family in front of the TV. But, is this really the best you can do? Television does not require any creativity on our part, nor do we have a chance to exchange thoughts and ideas as most of the family watches in silence. Instead of watching television, why not take a walk, play a game, have people over, play tennis, etc?
If you do decide to watch TV in the name of family time, make sure you do it as a family. To enforce this, why not take the televisions out of the kid’s rooms, so that they have to come to the living room to watch it with the rest of the clan. Sure, everybody won’t be able to control the remote, nor may they be happy about the show selection, but it could be a great opportunity for those dissidents to place other’s needs and desires above their own.
“It has educational value” This is what I call the “Pop Tart” sales pitch. If you ever take a close look at the packaging of those sugary “breakfast” treats, they mention that they are fortified. This gives kids a powerful weapon in their struggle to coerce their parents to buying toasted sugar squares. How many kids have put Pop Tarts in the baskets convincing them that it’s actually a nutritious snack? No doubt, many justify television because it’s fortified with “education.” But let’s keep this in perspective. For instance, in my college days, I may watch two hours of instructional videos a semester. The rest of my education came from listening to lectures, interacting with the professors, and reading books. Now there is a reason why the university designed my courses that way, because those methods provided the greatest educational benefit. Having your kids watching the Discovery channel four hours a day will not get them into an Ivy League School. Further, the TV is no substitute for helping them learn to love reading, answering their questions, and creatively explaining the world to them. Television does have educational value, but it’s a mere pittance in comparison to the treasure trove found in active parenting.
“We Can Use it to Watch Movies” This is not so much a reason to watch TV as much as a reason to own a television. Eliminating cable and lopping off the antenna is an attractive alternative as it gives the individual greater control over what they watch and do not watch. Yet, even with this approach caution is needed. For instance, a trip to a rental store to acquire a “clean” movie may defile the mind of the renter as trudges through the minefield of lusty DVD covers. Further, there are a limited number of clean movies in the world, and what happens when you watched them all. Well, many people at this point are tempted to violate their convictions regarding what constitutes a “clean” movie, so that they can watch something they haven’t seen before.
All of the above reasons for watching television can be God-honoring, but they are not without certain pitfalls. The extent of our television viewing habits is a decision that each of us has to make. Many of you can’t imagine life without it as you have never been without it. If you fit into that category, let me challenge you to remove all your television sets and place them in the garage for a month. Go on a television fast, and see what you do instead. Do you read, exercise, talk, and socialize more? Are you more joyful in the Lord and closer to your family? If you take me up on this challenge, I imagine that at the end your fast you will realize how little you miss television. Further, you will understand the two lifestyles, the one with and the other without television. It is at this point, that you can truly make a decision between better and best.