Good or Bad—Who’s to Say?
By Peter Amsterdam
When the topic of personal and social values comes up these days, it’s often in the context of what kinds of movies, music, reading material, computer games, and Internet usage are good or acceptable, and which aren’t. Often, this generates quite a bit of disagreement between the generations and even between peers. That’s not surprising, because all of these things are highly subjective. Something that has an obvious bad effect on one person may not seem to have a bad effect on someone else.
Some people have the attitude that a lot of violence, gore, and foul language in movies, for example, don’t have a bad effect on them. They like that kind of movie, and don’t think it’s harmful for them personally. They think they “can handle it.”
Whether they realize it or not, or want to admit it or not, regular intake of things that promote or condone these types of ungodly attitudes and behavior does have a detrimental effect on their spirit, and will eventually come out in their own attitudes and behavior. They would probably be better off if they took the opposite approach and instead of asking themselves, “Is this harmful to me?” they asked, “Is this good for me?”
Of course the smartest thing any of us can do when we aren’t sure whether or not something is good is to look to God’s Word, the Bible, and to measure that thing against the standard we find there.
The word used in most English versions of the Bible for the kind of good I’m talking about here is “edify,” which means “to enlighten; to improve the morals or knowledge of somebody.” The Bible makes it clear that we should pursue things that are edifying, and avoid things that aren’t.
So the question to ask is, “Does this movie, music, book, or whatever contain information or some moral value that will help me to be a better person? Does it promote things or attitudes that I consider true and worthwhile, or does it ‘preach’ against what I believe and stand for?”
Of course, nearly all movies these days contain some measure of violence, bad language, and other negative elements, but there is certainly a difference in the degree of negativity a movie contains. And the same is true of different types of music, reading material, computer games, and other forms of entertainment.
The Bible tells us, “Come out from among them [the ungodly elements of this world] and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17). “For 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 is of the world” (1 John 2:16). It’s impossible in this hi-tech, media-driven age to block out everything that is ungodly or that could have a bad effect on you, but if you recognize it as a real danger, you will try to minimize its effect by minimizing your exposure to it.
It’s much harder, of course, to minimize something we enjoy, even if we realize it’s basically a waste of time, so this often brings up the question of how much or how little is “minimizing”? Perhaps this example can provide a practical definition: If someone suggested that you minimize the time you spend on some job or activity that you dread doing, how often would you do it? Probably not very often—maybe never. Well, that would be your definition of minimize. So if you would minimize something that you don’t like to do by cutting back to almost never doing it, then you should apply the same interpretation of minimize when it comes to ungodly influences.
If you aren’t sure where to draw the line in your viewing, reading, gaming, and other forms of worldly intake, either in general or in specific situations, ask the Lord to show you. He knows what’s best for your spirit and what will make you happiest in the long run. You may also want to discuss this issue with family or friends whose moral values you respect, and to use their opinions and example to help you set personal limits for yourself. The bottom line is that it all comes down to personal conviction—how convinced you are that something is harmful to your spirit and how serious you are about avoiding it in order to stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to God’s greatest blessings. He will lead, if you will follow.
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