“Mom, can you check out these TV shows and see if I can watch them?”
Music to this mama’s ears.
After a bit of research, I approved two of the programs and disapproved the others, primarily because the shows were known to depict teens disrespecting adult authority figures.
It was my disapproval that led to her next questions:
“Why can’t I watch them? I know other kids who watch them. And besides, why does it really matter? It’s not like I’ll start being rude and disrespectful just because of what I’m watching.”
Now, in the face of such a response (offered, ironically, in a barely-still-respectful tone), I had a few choices.
I could lose my temper.
I could demand submission.
I could reiterate my authority.
I could chuck the TV out the window.
Or I could welcome the opportunity for deeper conversation and step through the wide-open door my daughter unknowingly offered.
This time, I chose well.
I allowed this episode with my daughter to prompt a series of chats during which I’ve covered with her some important biblical principles for entertainment – television, movies, music, books, and hobbies of all kinds.
Christian Principles for Entertainment
The Time Principle
It’s important to remember that time is a gift we must steward well. While entertainment can be a good and acceptable means of rest, we should be cautious about personal tendencies to devote an exorbitant amount of time to it.
This means that if we tend to get sucked into certain types of entertainment, bingeing on it for long periods of time or obsessively anticipating the next installment, we’re wise to establish firm boundaries for ourselves or even eliminate that particular activity altogether.
The Presence Principle
Acts 17:28 teaches us that, “In [God] we live and move and have our being.” He should be central to everything we do. Since believers house within us the very Spirit of God (I Corinthians 6:19), our entertainment choices should reflect an understanding of God’s presence with us and within us.
The Heart Principle
In Proverbs, we see a clear warning to guard our hearts fiercely because everything else in life flows from what’s contained there (4:23). Whether we like the idea or not, the things we expose ourselves to – especially with regularity over extended periods of time – have an impact on our hearts. And that matters to God.
The Mind Principle
Did you know that our gracious God gave us a checklist for what we should spend time thinking about? Philippians 4:8 teaches us to think about what is:
If a particular type of entertainment falls miserably short of these standards, it’s best to steer clear.
The Identity Principle
As Christians, we must be true to who we are. If the entertainment we’re choosing glorifies actions or attitudes that are in opposition to Scripture, nurturing worldliness instead of godliness, we should eliminate that double standard.
Lead by example
Fellow moms and dads, this is not an area in which we can get away with, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Our entertainment choices affect our kids; more often than not, they learn to love what we love.
Furthermore, kids will resist life principles their parents teach without applying. The truth is that biblical standards are the same, no matter our age; while age-appropriateness is certainly a consideration, wise parents will model good entertainment choices for our kids.
The fact that my twelve-year-old daughter is asking me these questions reveals to me that I’m a little late to the game. My husband and I have been very careful about what our kids watch, but we’ve so far focused on having our kids get mom or dad’s approval. We need to spend more time teaching them how to decide for themselves what is worthy of approval, based on what the Bible says.
This is a mistake I’ll be able to avoid with my other children. (They don’t call the oldest child a “guinea pig” for nothing!)
But it’s never too late
It’s best to lay the groundwork through many short, casual, and frequent discussions starting when kids are very young. But if you have older kids, it’s better late than never! Biblical principles, caring conversations, and fervent prayer go a long way toward impacting the hearts of children of all ages.