13 May 2017

Amusing ourselves to death

There's nothing wrong with amusement. We all like a good laugh! But the latest stats are worrying.

They reveal that the average adult watches the goggle-box for 21 hours a week and in addition spends 3-5 hours a day on a mobile phone or social media (and most of that is entertainment or trivial chit chat /texting)! As Neil Postman predicted back in 1985, 'we are in danger of amusing ourselves to death'.

And I'm not getting all self-righteous, because I love vegging in front of the box. But I have felt deeply convicted recently on two fronts.

1. What a life waster!
People often think about wrong in terms of things they've done wrong, like swearing, or lying, or stealing, or losing their temper. But the Bible also defines wrong in terms of things we should have said but didn't, and things we should have done but didn’t. God summarises what we should do in two simple commands:
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength', and 'Love your neighbour as yourself''
It's a painful calculation working out how much time we've loved God, by spending time with him hearing his Word in the Bible and praying to him, thinking about how magnificent he is and how wonderful his creation is, compared to how much time we've spent watching something utterly trivial and shallow on TV.

And he's given us the wonderful job of nurturing friendships and family, caring for neighbours, caring for his creation and making it beautiful and fruitful, and I think of the conversations I've not had, people I've not visited, jobs around the house and garden not done because it's been easier to sit in front of the box. It seems I can give God a miss, but I can't miss the next episode of some TV drama or other.

When the books are opened on the day God judges us, will the record of our lives amount to 'time well spent'?

2. How mind-numbing!
Just the other day, on the news, there was a report with harrowing pictures of people starving in Yemen, quickly followed by an amusing local item, shortly followed by an ad for L’OrĂ©al ''because you're worth it''!

TV reduces the serious to trivial and the deep to shallow. It cuts short worthwhile thoughts and stifles deep emotions. It dehumanises us. How can we put our minds to the weighty, complex matters of life that require careful, thought-through wisdom, when TV has rendered our minds unfit for purpose and robbed us of time?

One of the first things the Bible says to those who have been saved by faith in Jesus is: 'Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.' Romans 12:2. And, 'Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things...and put them into practice. Philippians 4:8.

I'm a TV addict, and I know I need help. When we turn to Jesus for help, he offers to forgive us for wasting the lives he gave us. He gave his life as he died on the cross so we could be saved from our folly. And he's promised us his Holy Spirit, to help wean us off our enslaving habits, like TV and social media. 'The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.' Romans 8:6.

There's no need to amuse ourselves to death. Jesus can set us free.

Simon Smallwood, Pastor