In 2012, the average American making 50k a year spent over $2600 on entertainment. That is about $200 a month. That is more than the average person gives to charity annually. We are entertained in many different ways; movies, music, games, sports, etc. Americans spend more time and money on entertainment today than any other nation in the history or the world. We like to be entertained. There is nothing wrong with being entertained. In fact, if the Westminster Catechism is correct stating that man’s chief end is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” then good godly entertainment is certainly one way we can enjoy Him. However, not all (or even most) entertainment that we spend money on today falls under the “godly entertainment” category. Let us not say, on the other hand, that all entertainment must be inherently Christian for Christians to partake in and enjoy.
Is it okay to watch and enjoy a football, soccer, or baseball game without feeling sinful? Most certainly! Nevertheless, there is also a way to watch these things and it be sinful, depending on your motive. How are we to discern what to watch and listen to in the way of entertainment? I believe the Philippians 4:8 test is the best way to do this. Paul wrote,
“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.”
Before you turn on The Game of Thorns or Downton Abby, and before you download that new Taylor Swift album, take this test and hopefully you will be able to see if you should be spending your time, money, and energy on it. Before you do anything, ask yourself these questions.
Is it True?
Can this (movie, book, TV program, etc.) be found in God’s Word as something that is true? For example, can you listen to a love song not written by a Christian? I would say yes, as long as it is something that lines up with the truth of God, and is not distorting it. If it lines up with the truth that is found in scripture and your conscience allows . . why not? Remember that all truth is ultimately God’s truth.
Is it Honorable?
This is to say, is it something that is honorable to God? Is it something where people are making light of sex? Then no, this is not honorable. Is it a game that glorifies violence? Again, I would say no, that is not honorable. What about a book that makes you lust after its character? Is that honorable? NO! You get the point.
Is it Just?
Is this something that is in harmony with God’s Word? What about music that is glorifying getting drunk or songs where the singer is bragging about themselves? I don’t think these are things that are justifiable to the Lord. And what about watching some kid being beat up on YouTube? Sorry, I don’t think that is justifiable entertainment either.
Is it Pure?
Is this promoting good or godly morals? Is the music video, TV show, or movie that is showing people making out in a provocative way okay? The question is, how is watching this going to make you more pure? Peering through a window watching a couple make out would be a good way to have yourself arrested wouldn’t it? There is not much difference in watching it on TV. If it is not pure, you do not need to be entertained by it.
Is it Lovely?
Is this pleasing, kind, or gracious? Is it okay to read a good hearted story about someone overcoming adversity? Sure, we all love to hear these kinds of stories. Actually, it often points us to the gospel. There are plenty of feel good movies and books that are not overtly Christian that fall into this category. However, if it is not pleasing, kind, or gracious, then the Philippians 4:8 test would say to “not think on these things.” It is inevitable that you will have to face things that are not lovely in your life, but to openly be entertained by them is a different matter.
Is it Commendable?
Is it respectful? Is it of high character? Is this something that you could recommend to your friends or a Christian family? I love war movies. My all time favorite is Braveheart (but only the edited version). I have recommended it to many people over the years. However, there are some songs, articles, TV shows, and movies that could never fall under this category that I have been sinfully amused by in the past. If you would not be willing tore commend it to your pastor, there is a great chance the Lord would not want you to participate in being entertained by it either.
These seven questions have helped guide me into making better choices in entertainment for my family. They apply to movies, music, books, and even sporting events. I love all sorts of entertainment. So, if Paul can quote a pagan poet (Acts 17:28) and it become part of the canon, it seems to be okay to be entertained by things that are not distinctly Christian as well as long as they fall into the above listed guidelines. The next time you want to run to the theater to watch the newest flick, or click to download the newest album on iTunes . . . take the Philippians 4:8 test first and see if it is something the Lord would be okay with.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell
4 thoughts on ““Now that’s a good movie!” . . . or is it? How to discern what is okay in entertainment.”
Well said!! This is an issue I feel very strongly about and is talked about in my house on a daily basis. We’re battling more and more ungodly outside influences thru mainstream media. Even kid shows that don’t seem “inappropriate” are not teaching anything valuable anymore 😦 I tell mine all the time just because its not bad for you, doesn’t make it good. Thanks for this article! I’ll deffinitely be sharing this 👍
Thanks for the kind words Kasey. There is much out there that may not necessarily be bad, but it most certainly is not good either.
My youth pastor uses a similar phrase to help us discern what to watch, read, and listen to. He says, “Instead of asking what is wrong with it, ask what is good about it?”