NOTHING WRONG WITH WATCHING MOVIES
(Started over ten years ago – hence the term VCR – and completed today)
‘There’s nothing wrong with watching movies’ I said to myself as I switched off the VCR and TV after watching a rather gruesome thriller a while back. Not only did I feel dissatisfied with my argument but the movie had left a bad taste in my mouth. I had a sense that I ought not to have been watching it, that it had damaged me inside in a way I couldn’t readily identify. I felt dirty. The after-effects of watching the movie I could not change, but my poor argument, ‘there’s nothing wrong with watching movies’ demanded more attention. How many times had I used this line of argument, confidently tossing it out there as though it were some kind of faithful talisman that would protect and justify me?
The argument is weak primarily because it denotes a defensive posture. It smacks of Garden of Eden, hand-in-the-cookie-jar reasoning. ‘You didn’t say we couldn’t …’, ‘we thought you might have meant …’ etc is relayed with the look of someone who knows they’ve been caught red-handed and is valiantly trying to justify bad behaviour. Arguing ‘there’s nothing wrong with ..’ simply reveals the inherent guilt that lies within such a person. Why? Because if there were ‘nothing wrong’, then the issue wouldn’t arise in the first place and we wouldn’t be backing into a corner. In addition, it is the argument of the person who is quite simply asking the wrong question about life. Let me explain.
In Matthew 25: 14-30 we read of the three servants who are left various talents by their master. Two of the servants use their talents well, investing their money and earning a return. One buries his. The parable teaches a number of lessons but one is to do with intentionality. If we are asking ‘what can I do without getting into trouble?’ we are asking the wrong question. This is the position of the foolish servant who said, ‘I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground’. No, we should be asking a different question altogether. It’s found in the name of a famous book by the great Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer: ‘How shall we then live?’ That is the question. The master in the parable wasn’t looking for excuses; he wanted to know what his servants had intentionally done with the gifts they had been given.
Now, I have to confess right now, that I simply love the movies. And there’s nothing wrong with watching movies. You see? I can’t stop using that phrase and I’m the one writing the article! But the place of entertainment in a believer’s life requires careful thought. There are two aspects to this which require attention. First, we need to learn to watch movies (and TV for that matter) with a careful eye to its effect on our thinking. I’d recommend a book by Steve Couch and Nick Pollard called ‘Get more like Jesus while watching TV.’ (Try to ignore a horrible use of the word ‘get’ in that title). Entertainment is saturated with worldviews (ways of interpreting the world) and learning to watch wisely requires a little effort. In some cases, a lot of effort.
Second, if we’re honest, most of us probably watch too much while creeping behind the statement ‘there’s nothing wrong with . . .’ The point isn’t that watching is wrong, it’s that we’ve lost our focus. We’re not here for very long. We’ve been given work to do. And often, we’re not doing it. No no, don’t feel guilty. Take a look in the mirror and ask for strength. Strength to make good choices. Those choices involve balancing the need for relaxation and yes, entertainment with the call of God to do his work – love others, serve, care, teach, whatever God has called you to do. And of course, prayer. Self-discipline is not just for uptight people, though the uptight keep a better eye on their use of time than others. (They’re often more judgmental too, which balances things out ;)). The fact is, we’re accountable for our use of time before God.
So, this weekend – this is posted on a Friday evening in the U.K. – go ahead and watch a movie. Watch it wisely. But be careful to evaluate your life and the gifts you’ve been given and lay them before God for his service. Most especially, ask for his help in achieving balance – the need for relaxation and the call to give yourself up for your God and others. He will give you the strength to make wise choices.