There are significant words in Psalm 101:3. The Psalmist says, “I will set no wicked thing before my eyes.”
There are many dangers which threaten the spiritual well-being of believers in these latter times, and perhaps the most serious menace to the Christian life and the Christian home, is the impact of television on its viewers. No one is going to deny that it is a wonderful invention and that some of its programs are educational and instructive, but for the dedicated child of God, the evil effects surely outweigh the seeming advantages.
What is said in this article does not apply to the kinds of closed-circuit TV which are used in some banks, hospitals, and schools for the purposes of efficient communication within the institution. We speak in this message about normal programming as it is presented by the various networks on commercial television. We want to kindly warn those who are tempted to get wrapped up in the snare of television-viewing, that TV can prove a curse if it is brought into your home.
I am increasingly concerned about the impact that television is making on many Christian homes. Of course there is no sin in the instrument itself. There is no sin in the tower on the roof. There is no sin in the table upon which the set stands. The sin lies in seeing the filth, in the tremendous waste of time that occurs, and in the unwholesome attitudes that TV often breeds. Many programs are vulgar and degrading; others are silly and comical and without much real benefit. Occasionally of course there is a bit of useful information—but most of what you see on television is actually a diet of questionable worldliness. It is a blending of violence, comedies, giveaway shows, late movies, news, and sports. Even unsaved people speak of it as “the idiot box” and “the monster in the living room.”
It does not take much viewing of programs on television to come to some obvious conclusions about it. A report prepared by the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate says that “crime, violence, brutality, sadism, and eccentric sex on the television screen must be regarded as a major factor contributing to the rising tide of juvenile delinquency all across the land.” The Committee found that in just one sixty-minute program, there were thirteen killings—nine by shooting, two by stabbing, one by torture, and one by smothering. This particular show was broadcast early on Christmas evening at a time when ten million children were watching. The Committee reports that other “blood and guts” programs of the same kind can be seen on almost any evening.
One writer described television by saying that “It is almost impossible to watch TV for thirty minutes in our day, without seeing people shot, or punched, or jabbed, or kicked.” Teenagers in school tell horrible tales about programs they have seen on television the night before. One disgusted mother wrote the editor of a magazine some time ago and said, “Any honest evaluation of my children’s thinking, makes me want to open the window and dump our television set out into the street for the garbage man to pick up.” She says, “If I had the courage to get rid of it, I honestly believe our children would grow up with higher standards of morality.” This mother who was not a professing Christian has more common sense than some who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ. At least she admits television is harmful.
There are three simple reasons why I feel compelled to warn against the evils of television.
1. For Our Own Sake
It is God’s desire that each believer should grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). It is appalling to sense the ignorance of the Bible evident in the lives of average church members today. We speak not of memorizing the twenty-third Psalm, or of repeating the Lord’s Prayer, or of knowing John 3:16—but of systematic knowledge about the truths taught in the Scriptures. Spiritual growth is the result of feeding on God’s Word, communing with the Lord in prayer, participating in the ordinances of God’s house, and engaging in other like activities. If we fritter away time watching TV, there is a tendency to lose our appetite for the Scriptures as well as our desire to pray. I know some people who bought a television set, and later confessed that they either had to get rid of the television or get rid of holiness in their personal lives.
One preacher tells how he bought a low-priced television set simply to watch the news and to get a couple of “good” programs. He says: “Within a few weeks, I could scarcely reach God in prayer; there was no fellowship with Him; no sweetness of His presence. I felt as if God had forsaken me. Six weeks of this was all I could stand; the thing went out, and the blessing of God came back.” Jeremiah says, “My eye affecteth my heart” (Lamentations 3:51). We need to be careful about what we see because what we see lets scars on the soul. It affects the heart—the inner man.
Television brings a growing indifference toward biblical standards of morality. Things that not too many years ago were shocking, can soon be watched with indifference. Things that would have caused a blush when the set was first purchased can soon be watched without a pang. TV tends to dull the spiritual life. Sin becomes less sinful and “the sweet by and by” (the eternal world) becomes less attractive. Television has likely put more believers to sleep than any other influence for evil in our generation.
For many years good Christian people have refused to attend night clubs and theaters and wrestling matches. Now these very scenes are brought right into the home and many people have no conscience against it. Many of the shows seen on television are the same shows seen several years before in the movie theater, and in the minds of some, it is all right to bring these things into our homes.
One typical program deals with murder and magnifies gunplay. Another displays nakedness and a wild “love in.” Still another deals with a sex relationship between a brother and his own sister in the same family. More and more programs have one or more bedroom scenes. Some insist that they don’t watch those kinds of programs, but that they watch only the good programs. But most of the so-called “good” programs are nothing but a steady flow of this world’s foolishness. Even the best programs are usually nothing but mediocre comedies. They are made up of clowning and tricks and fun and excitement—and the “fun” morality is no better than the “violent” morality.
Even news programs are often biased. A spokesman before the National Council of the Causes and Prevention of Crime, said, “Far too much emphasis is being given on television programs to the extremists seeking publicity. Television has become an effective weapon to discredit law enforcement in our country.” If there is not enough bad news, the men operating the cameras find ways to manufacture some. They know that people are looking for exciting news, and so they stick the noses of their cameras into every moral garbage pile they can find. They know that the more wretched a news item can become, the more detergent and the more furniture polish it is going to sell!
Religious programs are often debatable in value also. The Gospel is often watered down. The presenters are usually easy-going, confident speakers clad in suede sports coats, and the choral groups adorned with fancy dresses may appeal more to the eye than to the heart.
One advertisement on the side of a city bus said, “Bring the world into your home; tune in to Channel 43.” And that’s exactly what is being done. The world comes into the home, and then into the heart, and soon there is a shallowness in the spiritual life. The values that “come through” on television are self-centeredness, sensuality, superficiality, and materialism. Rarely are such virtues as kindness, compassion, faith, or meekness extolled. A bit of verse says:
“At first it will shock them, they’ll seem in a haze,
But soon they’ll be hardened, and continue to gaze;
We’ll give them some gospel that isn’t too strong,
And a few sacred songs to string them along.
They’ll soon take in the ads, with the latest of fashion,
And watch the shows that stir evil passions.
The old family altar which once held such charm,
Will soon lose its place without much alarm . . . .”
The Psalmist says, “I will set no wicked thing before my eyes.” If I believed that television made believers more spiritual and more Christlike, I would urge each Christian family to buy several sets and put them in a couple rooms of the house—but in light of the fact that many programs glamorize vulgarity, sexual misconduct, violence, and disrespect—such a suggestion is unthinkable.
2. For Our Children’s Sake
If God has blessed you with a family, He wants you to bring up that family in “the nurture and the admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). It is God’s will that we should put their salvation above everything else—above their education and recreation and worldly advancement. My wife and I would like to see each one of our six children make it through to Heaven, and thus we deliberately refuse to throw dangers in their pathway.
Most television programs during the hours when children can watch, dramatize violence and foul language and immodesty and silly laughter. Women kill their men for insurance and divorce them for alimony and become interested in other men because of their money. Men stab other men in the back and gag women and tie them to a bedpost and roll cars down over cliffs and attempt murder with a pitchfork. The majority of programs make sin appear attractive and desirable. They desecrate the sacredness of marriage. They put children into a fantasy world of unreality. TV viewing often destroys family relationships, disrupting family meal times, and replacing the family altar with that which is worldly and sinful in direction.
Everyone knows that appeals to the eye make a much more lasting impression than do appeals to the ear. If you think television doesn’t make impressions on old and young alike, then you are not considering seriously the cost of advertising between the hours of 8 P.M. and 11 P.M. each evening on TV. If television influences our buying behavior (and at up to $100,000.00 per minute, advertisers believe it does), then television also influences our social behavior. And television-taught values can soon undermine clear biblical instruction. Information and values can seep into one’s consciousness almost without his knowing it.
Time and time again people commit crimes based on what they saw on television. One of the biographies of John F. Kennedy tells how Lee Harvey Oswald literally went “mad” the night before the alleged murder of Mr. Kennedy. Oswald was watching World War II pictures on television and that is what set him off. In Newcastle, England, some years ago, an eleven-year-old girl was charged and convicted with strangling two small boys just for a thrill. She told a hushed courtroom, at her trial, that she learned to kill by watching TV.
One mother shares this experience. She says, “A week ago we drove by the house where we had lived when our children were smaller.” Her six-year-old boy said in a matter-of-fact way (upon seeing the house where they used to live) — “When I grow up and get married, I’m going to kill the people who live in that house so I can live in it.” When the mother caught her breath (she was shocked)—she said, “But John, we don’t kill people to get their houses; the proper thing to do is to work and earn more money and buy a house of your own; it is wrong to hurt other people.” Johnny said, “That’s not the way they do it now on television; they shoot people all the time.” The truth is that television does not convey the idea that life is serious and that industry and hard work are virtuous qualities.
One mother told me in her own words how her husband insisted on getting television in their home—and sometime later, the girls in their home (angry because of some incident that had happened)—actually threw the mother down and stomped on her with their feet. After it was all over they told her they did it like they saw it on television.
Some say, “But we don’t allow our children to see everything that appears on television.” That may be true. You might be selective and turn off certain undesirable programs, but you are not with your children all the time. They are going to be curious to watch everything that can be seen, and they’re going to get away with it sometimes. I have visited more than one home where television had been installed, and the parents told about the church services that could be seen, and the musical concerts, and some of the good programs that are produced—but on at least one occasion, when I looked over into the family room, the children were watching a bloody wrestling match where two men were tearing each other to pieces and seeming to want to gouge out each other’s eyes. Very frankly, I doubt that television can be controlled. If it is in the home, it is going to be used. An informed man in the field of entertainment says, “Some good parents who understand the influence of television, try to regulate its use. But even the most careful parent soon realizes that complete control of television-viewing is practically impossible to attain.” Jesus says in Luke 17:1-2, “Woe unto him through whom offenses come; it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he be cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” If you have television for the accommodation of your family, is it right to expect the preacher to work miracles by calling for him to pray for your children when they go astray?
3. For the Lord’s Sake
The Lord has redeemed us with His own precious blood, and therefore we are not our own, because we have been bought with a price. And God is jealous over our affections. He is grieved to see the world steal away our hearts. James says, in chapter 4:5, “Do you think that the Scripture saith in vain, The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” The Holy Spirit who comes to live in us at the time of conversion, is grieved when we become friendly with the world-system.
The Lord says further in Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” What about the programs normally watched on TV? Are any of them ungodly? Are any of them filled with worldly lusts? What about the serials loaded with seduction scenes (a man and woman in bed discussing impotence and frigidity)? Do the majority of TV productions teach sober living? Honest people admit that most television programs are planned by worldly minds and are given over to this world’s values. If it is not violence and brutality—it’s dancing and jazz music and shameful love scenes, and other worldly attractions.
Can you imagine Jesus (the Man of Sorrows), grief-stricken over a lost world, sitting in front of a television set with all its nonsense and wild laughter? Can you picture the Apostle John, who said, “All that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but of the world” (1 John 2:16)—can you picture that same Apostle John with his eyes glued on a TV screen?
The following words are taken from a personal letter received from a preacher-friend whose family had had television: “We’ve been enjoying a peaceful and wonderful evening together as a family, listening to hymns on records. We consider every hymn a sermon. We have all grown much closer to God since we got rid of our television set a few years ago. We made a great mistake when we thought we could control it, and get only the good programs. There are practically no good programs. We feel that television is one of the devil’s major tools, and we have come to despise it. We’ve asked forgiveness for leading our family astray (for those several years) by this means, and we see evidences of God’s healing and pardon.”
The appeal of this message is a plea to keep our hearts true to Jesus Christ and our homes unspotted from the world.