Honor Thy Television

Honor Thy Television
Say what you will about the condition of the Church, in our own homes Christians remain fiercely devoted worshipers. This is clearly demonstrated by the sacred altar in every believer's living room: All furniture faces this altar, and we are ever before it, sacrificing our time and seeking peace there. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Our zeal is such that many of us have additionally placed this altar in our dens, and even our bedrooms. Unfortunately, this object of adoration is not the Living God, the Creator of the universe, but the common television set.
Jesus tells us, "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21) Researcher George Barna notes, "The average congregant spends more time watching television in one day than he spends in all spiritual pursuits combined for the entire week."
Is it possible that our love of television-the sheer amount of time we expose ourselves to it-is weakening the Body of Christ? Could this explain in large part the worldliness that has flooded the Church?
Admittedly, it may be difficult to think of television as an intellectual, emotional, or spiritual impediment. It has been our lifelong friend; our children and grandchildren are growing up with it. But at what cost?
According to A.C. Nielsen, Americans watch an average of more than four hours of TV per night. By the time a viewer reaches the age of 65, he or she will have spent nine full years in front of the tube! Sadly, this includes many believers. How much could be accomplished for the Lord in nine years of a person's life?
Those who believe themselves impervious to the effects of television should perhaps reconsider. Even the mere act of channel surfing subjects us to things that are grievous to Jesus Christ. It is written in 1 Corinthians 15:33, Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals."
Our "bad company" is beamed right into our homes. Night after night, many of us saturate ourselves with the world's wisdom, humor, and obscenity. Appointed to be a light in this world, through bondage to television we all too often become just like the culture we are trying to reach.
Years of viewing can dull our spirit to the point where we cannot-or will not-discern that we are being harmed by what we watch. Some shows we love may not be Biblically acceptable at all. According to Psalm 101:2-3, I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes. This is difficult, because these days, even the commercials are vile.
While Bible believers might not watch the most blatantly offensive shows, the countless hours spent in front of the small screen nevertheless shapes our thinking and our beliefs. Too often it is TV, rather than the Bible, that defines our worldview.
So what can be done? Pastor R. Kent Hughes, author of 'Disciplines of a Godly Man,' writes, "My advice? Stop watching TV. I mean that sincerely. Not watching TV will liberate so much time it will become virtually impossible not to become a deeper person and a better Christian."
Hughes' advice may seem unrealistic and simplistic. However, many of us would be quite surprised at how difficult it is to give up television for a week, much less forever. We boldly address addiction to drugs, sex, or even food, but it's hitting a little too close to home to consider that television may also be bondage.
Some dismiss all this as legalistic thinking, noting the Bible calls for all things in moderation. Fair enough. Certainly there are believers who are careful about what programs they watch, and how often. Many of us, however, absorb unhealthy hours of programming every week. Prayer, Bible studies, and family interaction take a back seat to Survivor and American Idol. 
There is a simple way to find out if this is a problem: Try going without TV for one week. If you can't do that, try and limit yourself to one hour per night. If you can't do that, it's time to ask Jesus if "MUST SEE TV" (as one network used to call it) is, in His eyes, simply idolatry.
John Lanagan

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