By Gareth Maggs.
This is not a blog that says watching television series is bad. It’s a blog calling us to be wise with the series we watch.
Let’s face it, everybody watches television series. The New York Times says that the average person watches 33 hours of television per week and If you divide that by 7 then the average person is watching nearly 5 hours a day! 5 HOURS A DAY! Granted, not all of that is series, but we all know that out of our 5 hours, a good chunk is spent in front of the computer, tablet or TV watching series.
With something that takes up so much of our time, it’s only right that we as Christians think wisely about it. Especially since the Bible calls us to do everything to the Glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Here are some questions to ask yourself when it comes to series:
1. What is my motive for watching series?
This is a broad question to which there are many answers. For example, you may watch series because you like stories, you want something light hearted to end off your day, you like to be relevant, it’s time you spend with your family, you love looking for characters who identify with you or maybe you like learning and so enjoy informational series.
There are many reasons, however, if your reason leads you to feel that you need series, then maybe your motive is incorrect. I.e. You may feel like series brings you a form of peace or tranquillity. It’s something that helps you cope with your life. It could be an escapism, freedom from stress and a chance to be in a world which is not your own. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the relaxation gained from series, but if you feel angry, frustrated or down when there’s something preventing you from watching it, then perhaps you need to check your motive?
In Philippians 4:7, Paul reminds us that the peace that surpasses all understanding is found in Christ. We need to turn to him to find ultimate rest, not series. He is in control of this world, and He not only offers to help us in times of need, but offers to be the one we can share our burdens with (Psalm 55:22). This means turning to the Lord in prayer and sharing with other Christians your burdens so that they can help you find peace in the Lord. If you are not sure about whether you find peace in series, perhaps rephrase the question and ask, “Do I find my peace in the Lord?”
2. Am I being a good steward of my time?
Quite often I’ll ask Christians, ‘How’s your bible reading?’ and I’ll get told “I don’t have time”, yet when I ask them ‘How’s your series watching?’, I’ll see their eyes light up as they delight in recounting the number of series they are watching and what season they are on in each. As mentioned earlier, watching series is not wrong, but if you claim that you don’t have time for the bible and yet are watching hours of series, maybe you need to check your priorities?
It’s not just the bible we don’t have time for. We often don’t have time for our families and serving in church, yet we’ll dedicate hours to series. I suspect the reason behind this is that our motive for watching series is wrong. We see series as our time and something we need (See point one for more). We need to learn the art of sacrifice. We need to give up time with watching series and find the reward in spending time loving our families, serving our church and reading God’s word. You might think that there’s no joy in sacrificing to this extent, but there is. Try it for a month and you’ll see what I mean.
3. Is what I’m watching legal?
If you are a person who watches series for free, because you get them off some pirated website, app or a friend gives them to you, you will be someone who is watching series illegally.
What I’d kindly ask you to do is check your motive for watching series (Or a specific series)? I suspect the reason you download illegal series is not because you can’t afford it and are frustrated with the current pirating laws, but because you feel you need series. Only something you feel you really need would cause you to do something illegal just to get it. Series may cure your boredom, it may be where you find rest or it may be the happiness you get at the end of a busy day (see point 1 for more). It may be a specific series that you “crave” and feel you “have” to watch it. Legal systems get in the way of you fulfilling your series need. If this is you, you need to read point 1 again.
A person who no longer needs series might be frustrated at the law, but won’t break it. There’s no need to take the risk. I find it strange that so many Christians will be happy to classify pirating as steeling, yet will happily own a pirated copy of a series with little or no guilt. Not only do they show double standards, but they also show that they are happy to go against God as long as they get what they need. That need for series needs to be satisfied in the Lord, not in illegal pirating.
4. Is what I’m watching helpful rather than unhelpful for me?
Our greatest goal is to bring Glory to the Lord. One of the ways we do this is by choosing to strive for holiness. Holiness is our desire to be more like Jesus; to be blameless and spotless before the Lord (Colossians 1:22). You need to ask yourself if the series you are watching helps you to achieve this?
This will differ per person depending on where you are in your walk with the Lord and what tempts you. I have found many who are relatively new to Christianity having their world view shaped by the series that they watch and I’ve challenged them to spend more time in God’s word. A younger person may have self-esteem issues based on unrealistic expectations set in a television series. A person who struggles with sexual temptation may find a television series rated ‘PG’ causes them to stumble.
If you are serious about holiness, you need to be serious about yourself and choose series that are not a stumbling block. This can be hard to do, but if you want to watch series, you need to be willing to do the research and find something suitable. You may find that no series is helpful for you and if that does happen, you need to be willing to say ‘No’ to television series as a whole.
5. Would Jesus watch this with me?
This sounds like the question you tell teenagers to ask themselves when they are on a date; “Would Jesus be happy with my actions?”. It is also a good question to ask yourself when watching a series, because you are really answering a multitude of questions with one question. Is what I’m watching ethical? Should I be exposing my eyes to the content of this specific show? Is this show right for me given my specific temptations and my background? Etc.
When it comes to television series, Christians today seem to be relaxed on ethics. They are ok to watch shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld, which depict pornographic scenes. Would Jesus watch these series with you? The answer is no. In fact, according to scripture, he’d rather gouge his own eye out then watch something that even remotely tempts him (Matthew 5:27 – 30). If Jesus is willing to endure sacrificing an important body part to stay holy, then surely we should be willing to sacrifice that series?
We need to stop being so relaxed on our ethics and be willing to not watch certain television series for the sake of our holiness. If Jesus can’t watch the series with us, then perhaps we should not watch it. If we find that we still crave watching that series after thinking this way, then perhaps we need to go back to point 1 of this blog and find out what is our motive for watching series.
Watching Series is not wrong and can really be fun. However, we need to be wise. I hope that these questions will help you with being wise about your series watching.