My kids were coming over for Sunday lunch and everything was ready. I’d even managed to make the lemon roulade and was feeling chuffed with myself. All the prep was done, the mess was cleaned up, and I had an hour to kill. So I decided to see what the TV had to offer.
I stumbled across “Married At First Sight—Australia.” Don’t even get me started on the whole concept—a reality TV show following couples who have been paired by experts and meeting for the first time on their wedding day. Each week, apparently, they tell the experts if they want to stay or leave. What caught my attention yesterday was the confession that a couple had been cheating. They were asking the ‘experts’ if they could stay in the show with the new partner. Initially, everyone was as you would expect: absolutely horrified and stunned that they would betray their respective spouses.
Cheating was bad enough but, they were incredulous that they would want to stay on the show. The tension was thick, and I have no doubt this added to the rating and the next day’s headlines. It was stunning how quickly the room changed—as the experts let them stay and the other couple were swayed by the fact that the cheaters seemed to genuinely care for each other. It went from outrage to celebration and acceptance in a matter of minutes. Apparently, infidelity is okay as long as they genuinely ‘care for each other’ (lies told to make things palatable).
Father of Lies
I started thinking about other TV shows out there: from the new Netflix drama ‘Bridgerton’ (pegged as Jane Austen with sex—and lots of it) to the American TV series ‘Lucifer.’ Lucifer apparently hasn’t much else to do but run a night club and assist the local police to solve difficult cases. One of the most talked about and curious parts of Lucifer’s character is that he doesn’t lie (or can’t, as some suggest). It’s made much of.
So, here we have it in a nutshell: The Bible tells us that lies are the devil’s “native language”, that he is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). For the Christian, it’s no surprise that “. . . what you watch, read, listen to and play can affect your mood, temper, and even how generous and kind you are to others afterwards!” Lamentations is much more direct in verse 3:53a “What I see brings grief to my soul. . . .” What we watch matters.
In the UK, we apparently spend 22.5 hours a week watching TV (the world leaders are the Americans, with 31.5 hours a week). But does this give an accurate indication? I don’t know about you, but I tend to only watch TV at the weekends. Even then, I prefer streaming over live TV. I like to watch a whole series when I feel like it and not wait till next week. So, if you asked me, I’d say I maybe watched a max of 8 hours of TV a week but, here’s the rub: that wouldn’t include the minutes and hours I waste a week on YouTube. I’ve not watched one episode of Luther but, I’ve seen three minutes “best scenes” on YouTube (it’s how I know it exists).
I’ve dipped into Korean Drama (I know, I don’t know what I was thinking), watched daily humour snippets, and flicked through Brad Mondo’s “how to cut your own hair” (just don’t). When I sat down and thought about it, there is a bunch of rubbish influencing me, way beyond my Netflix list or iPlayer favs.
The thing is, I’m really careful what I watch on TV (and movies)—I have a 15 rating rule (slowly being regraded down to a 12). Yet, all those three minute and nine minute videos are just as influential—in fact, it might actually be worse than a full hour show as its condensed and out of context. 1 Corinthians 15:33 puts it like this: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” I’m not sure there is much difference between the company in person or online . . . it all has an influence.
What influences us is important. We would be naive to think that what we are watching, listening to, who we are spending time with, what we are reading, the computer games we play don’t impact us. They absolutely do. If we aren’t careful, these things will fuel and sways our hearts, minds, and motivations. Hear me right, I’m not suggesting we all cancel our Netflix or Prime accounts, sell our TVs, and just read puritan Christian books. But we need to engage our brains and acknowledge who and what has an impact on us.
That’s why Proverbs 4:23 tells us to: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” We are to guard our hearts; that is to protect, safeguard, shield, defend, and watch out for our hearts. We are to actively engage our brains and think through what we are allowing to influence our hearts because everything we do flows from it. Do we think about what’s ruling our hearts and how important it is? It’s life and death, spiritually. Our very life depends on it. Ortlund succinctly puts it: “Don’t cram your hearts full of death.”
Wow, that’s a bit of a sucker punch smacking us right in the face—“Don’t cram your hearts full of death.” Am I? Are you cramming your heart full of death? We don’t just wake up one morning and think: I’m going to walk away from God—no, it’s the result of weeks, months, years of cramming our heart full of lust, unhelpful thoughts, bitterness, selfishness, greed . . . in some part fuelled and influenced by what I am devoting my time to: including the rubbish I’m watching.
Who Will Satisfy?
Why is the heart so important? It reveals who we really are!
Why do we need to guard it? Our hearts are constantly thirsting, and usually after the wrong thing.
Ortlund says this: “Your heart has a hunger, a thirst, that only Christ can satisfy.” The sad reality for many Christians today is that we are trying to satisfy that heart-thirst with anything but Jesus. It important for us to be honest about what’s ruling our heart so that we can be vigilant and take action. ‘Forewarned is forearmed’ my mother always said. We guard our hearts by being vigilant.
Proverbs 4:24–27 continues by saying:
Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
It’s not a mistake that Proverbs 4:24–25 brings attention to the eyes and mouth. One feeds our heart and the other reveals our heart. But verse 27 is clear—we guard our hearts by making sure we stay on the right path. This isn’t a passive inaction. We must engage our brain, carefully think through what we are doing, and what/who our influencers are. There’s no such thing as mindless entertainment.