Today, many Christians imagine they keep all the Ten Commandments even while they entertain themselves by watching others break them all. It seems that for many, God’s eternal standards are not related to their modern interests. This problem is especially acute for Christian youth who find that their friends, Christian or non-Christian, attend nearly all of the innumerable movies targeted to their generation.While it is true that there can be no list of “do's and don'ts” to replace a heart focused on God’s will, it is also true that “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Galatians 3:24)(1). When we truly desire to know and glorify God we are supernaturally inclined to find joy in what is good. In what follows we will consider the principles taught in the Ten Commandments to discover their relationship to the entertainment of those who would follow Jesus Christ.
1. I am the LORD thy God…Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Researchers now say that entertainment is the biggest industry in America (2)(3). Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Therefore, we must conclude that America’s heart has been given to entertainment. Yet the Christian must be wary of anything that would cause us to forget the priority of a relationship with God. The focus of every Christian should be to put God first in their lives. When it comes to entertainment we must ask:
Does this honor God as first in my life?
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
Idolatry is not a problem confined to some past, pagan culture. Today, there is as much energy given to the worship of created things as ever in history. Because of the heart’s inclination to idolatry, we are not surprised to hear of those who “idolize” someone or something in the popular culture. In fact, the cultural images we identify with are almost certainly the key indicators of the inclinations of the heart. Jesus warned that, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24). When it comes to entertainment we must ask:
Does this help me keep my focus on God?
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
Misuse of the name of God appears to be an integral part of contemporary entertainment. The increasing slide toward vulgarity, profanity, and blasphemy has finally found its way into films created for the youngest of children. Yet words are a good indicator of the quality of relationships. Would we really sit quietly in a movie where the name of our mother, father, brother, or sister was used in vain? When we fail to recognize an insult to the holy name of God we must question the quality of our love for Him that the name represents. Yet, Jesus said, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9). When it comes to entertainment we must ask:
Does this give due honor to the name and character of God?
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
For the Christian, holy living is found in submission to the lordship of Christ. This is experienced by resting in the finished work of Jesus on the cross (John 19:30, Hebrews 4:9-11). When Jesus said that “The Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Matthew 2:28) he meant to include all days of the week under his lordship. Likewise, Christians do not confine “religious devotion” to a certain day of the week, but rather seek to live holy every day of the life given by Christ. When it comes to entertainment we must ask:
Does what I choose on Friday agree with what I do on “holy days?”
5. Honour thy father and thy mother.
Today, traditional family values are minimized, forgotten, or even mocked by what is called modern entertainment. Because of the predominance of dysfunctional families in entertainment, it is clear that the prevailing tradition is anti-family values. Jesus said, “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition” (Matthew 15:6). And perhaps the least valued ideal of family relationships is parental honor. Yet without honor to bind us together, the joy of family love is lost in self interest. There is great value in entertainment that affirms relationships bound by mutual honor. When it comes to entertainment we must ask:
Does this build up and give honor to loving relationships in the family?
6. Thou shalt not kill.
One of the two main pillars of media power is the unreal presentation of violence. After Columbine, there should be no doubt about the terrible effect of violent entertainment on youth. With all the difficulties of growing up in a hostile culture, we can no longer stand by while the emotions of this generation are exploited for money. Further, we must all guard against seeing people as our enemies. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you… that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44,45). When it comes to entertainment we must ask:
Does this cause me to view others as potential children of God?
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
The other pillar of media power is the unreal presentation of sex. After 35 million abortions and the STD plague, there should be no doubt about the terrible effect of sexual entertainment on youth. With all the difficulties of growing up in an oversexed culture, we can no longer stand by while the passions of this generation are exploited for money. Further, we must all guard against seeing people as objects of pleasure. Jesus said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). When it comes to entertainment we must ask:
Does this cause me to view sex as a reward for faithfulness in marriage?
8. Thou shalt not steal.
Robin Hood aside, stealing is wrong. In fact, the modern myth of “stealing from the rich to give to the poor” is largely advanced by the entertainment-rich media elite. We would do well to question the motives of those who promote redistribution of the wealth of others even while becoming rich. In this world, there is much injustice in the distribution of wealth, however when God blesses a certain people we must guard against jealousy. When it was demanded that Jesus redistribute a certain man’s inheritance he responded by saying, “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? … Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:14,15). When it comes to entertainment we must ask:
Does this cause me to think of my possessions with thanksgiving to God?
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Story telling has great power for good or evil. When we become emotionally engaged in a story we can easily forget the importance of truth. Too often, emotional stories are used as a way to get around discernment. Just because we are told that a “story is based on the truth” we have no guarantee of the truthfulness of the story. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). When it comes to entertainment we must ask:
Does this cause me to see the truth of Christ?
10. Thou shalt not covet.
Lust is the excessive desire for something that we cannot, or should not have. Too often we are tempted to entertain ourselves with what we know is wrong on the excuse that we are morally “strong enough” to withstand the temptation. This excuse is based on the notion that sin is confined to outward actions. But the Christian should know that sin lives in the heart. Jesus said, “out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23). When it comes to entertainment we must ask:
Does this cause me to desire only the good that God has given for my pleasure?
In the preceding examination of the commandments it should be clear that the mere mention of a transgression of the law does not necessarily disqualify a certain form of entertainment. In fact, the Bible itself mentions and often provides in-depth illustrations of all of the above. The real issue is Truth. The question we need to ask is: Does this form of entertainment provide an honest presentation of both the positive and negative implications of God’s law? And as before, we can personalize our question by asking: How does my choice of entertainment reflect on my current relationship with God who gave his law to protect and provide for my life?
One last observation. When we see those who are discerning in their choice of entertainment it is quite natural to discount their lifestyle as “legalistic.” However, when you personally know someone who is genuinely seeking to be close to God you will often hear them describe the Christian life as a “passionate love for a good God.” A knowledge of God’s precepts is intended to lead to a knowledge of God’s principles and finally to a knowledge of the personal love of God. In the end, when challenged by those who ask “is this entertainment really that bad?” the Christian can simply respond, “is it really that good?”
Tim Nordgren 4/9/00