Is It Okay If I Watch This?

Is it okay if I watch this? header

This was explored and taught by Joshua Lowe at a youth session on 19 August 2023. Though targeted at youths, some of the principles and considerations are also relevant to all of us. 

Recently, I needed rice for dinner, but I wanted it quickly and the rice cooker will take at least half an hour. A quick online search brought me to a video which showed me exactly how much rice and water was needed and how long to cook in the microwave. The video showed me exactly what kind of container I needed and the exact steps I needed to take to cook my rice. I happily watched this video, carefully following what was shown in the video and in no time I had microwaved rice all ready for dinner.

The internet and its videos are wonderful because they can give us answers to all sorts of things. Can you relate to doing something similar? When was the last time you got an idea from watching something online?

Videos are a powerful tool. With the amount of video content out there, there are vast amounts of information. And with the invention of the smartphone and social media, things that you can watch become even more accessible.

We now have an endless supply of television, movies and videos in the palm of our hands. Anyone can watch anything at any time in any place. You can get access to just about anything with just a few swipes of the finger. 

With the accessibility of the internet, We are living in what people are calling the information age. This is because so much information is easily available to us now, and it’s pretty amazing.

However, with increasing accessibility to television and entertainment about everything being made available to us, we are filling our minds with lots of stuff, sometimes good knowledge, sometimes bad, but are we actually getting wiser? Are we filling our minds with wisdom? What are you filling your mind with?

This session is titled: “Is it okay if I watch this?” and we will be talking about having wisdom, particularly with what we watch. Although this talk could apply to what we watch generally, I want to particularly focus on what we watch online

My aim is to show you that God's wisdom is better than anything we watch online. The main idea of this message is: We need God’s wisdom to know what to watch. We will also look at this in three sections: 

  • The dangers of watching things online
  • The wisdom of God
  • Guidance on what to watch

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The dangers of watching things online

As I mentioned, watching things online is an amazing resource and tool. There are many good things that you can watch that can be useful. Accessibility to videos and information can be extremely helpful, however this can also be dangerous.

The accessibility to copious amounts of videos from Tiktok, Instagram and Youtube can often lead to information overload. Just think about how tired you feel after a full day of school and classes, filling your mind with learning new things.

This information overload can lead to feelings of anxiety, feeling overwhelmed and mental fatigue. All of the videos and entertainment options that the Internet gives to us causes our brains to be busier than ever. Our brains need to constantly synthesise what is worth watching and what is not.

The massive amounts of things that we could potentially watch can be overwhelming and this is unhealthy for us. Too much of anything is not good for our health, and having access to watching too many things online is similarly not good for our health.

The mere task of asking the brain to constantly decide or choose which video to watch can cause our brains to burn through fuel quickly, which makes us feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time. This leads to the feeling of being overwhelmed which compromises our cognitive and physical performance. The stress this causes on our brains also leads to anxiety.

We don’t need research studies to understand these things. We can easily experience this overwhelming sensation on our own. Just go to the home page of any social media streaming service like Youtube, Tiktok or Instagram. Immediately you will be bombarded with a million different options on what you should be watching, which is the most interesting, what is the latest and greatest video out there.

Quick quiz, in your internet browser on the computer, what does pressing F5 do? Or ctrl+R? It’s the refresh button. I have often spammed these buttons when I am on Youtube to see if there are any new videos that I have missed.

How can you know that what you’re watching is the most up to date unless you keep pressing F5 and refreshing? New videos are constantly being uploaded, maybe you missed a good video since you last checked 5 minutes ago. FOMO or fear of missing out, is another symptom that comes with having too much variety. This constant need to be up to date with the latest and greatest can easily become an anxiety-fueling obsession.

On top of these things, there are highly addictive things to watch online. Not only is there more access to traditionally addictive activities such as sexually explicit or even explicit materials such as pornography, but videos from social media itself are highly addictive.

When we watch a short video, if it is something we enjoy or have found interesting, we get a dopamine hit that keeps us hooked. It makes us search out another video just as fun and exciting to watch. We are constantly looking to watch the latest and greatest video that makes us feel happy, excited and amused. After we have received that initial dopamine hit, we seek to find another and another until we are completely addicted. The effects of watching social media videos are just as addictive as alcohol, tobacco or sugar.

Is it okay if I watch this? quote 2These are some of the dangers of watching too many things online. With so many things to watch at our disposal, we are filling our minds with too many things. It is not good for our health and might not be how we are designed to function. We are not doing well in this new internet age. We are filling our minds with all sorts of videos, but is it helping us? Are we actually getting wiser? This brings us to our next section: the wisdom of God.

The wisdom of God

As we saw in the previous section, we are gaining access to more information by watching more videos, but these are not actually helping us to be wiser.

Proverbs 4:4-6 tells us:

"Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honour you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

This proverb tells us that having wisdom is vitally important. We should seek after it and prize it and treasure it as one of the most precious things in this world. Wisdom is the most important thing in life.

Wisdom is knowing how to live life well and thrive in God’s world. It is how we make good decisions, and this is just as important about what we watch online. Wisdom is knowing what to do with all this media and what we should be filling our minds with.

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Knowledge and Wisdom are different things. The right type of knowledge might be able to help you get the best grades, and score the highest in a trivia contest, but these can help you for specific short term answers. Wisdom is the skill to choose and live life well and thrive in life.

For example, I have a friend who is a doctor. He is quite smart and always got the best grades in school, but I would say he doesn’t always make wise decisions. My friend once wanted to buy a guitar. He did all his research and found the best, most value for money acoustic guitar on the market. It was really quite an impressive guitar. Although it was quite expensive, he assured me it was worth the money in the end. So my friend went ahead with the purchase and that guitar became the fourth guitar in his collection. Now don’t ask me why he needs four guitars, but I would guess he probably played it once or twice and then left it to collect dust with all his other guitars.

Having knowledge won't always make us wise. So how do we become wise? Proverbs writes the following: 

  • "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Prov 1:7)
  • "For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;" (Prov 2:6)

Proverbs tell us wisdom comes from the Lord himself. We cannot be wise without God because he is the source and keeper of all wisdom.

The Bible also tells us more about this wisdom. James 3:17 says that true wisdom is “from above”. Proverbs 8:22-32 tells us that God created wisdom, Proverbs 2:6 says God gives wisdom and that wisdom comes from the fear of God see Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10.

So how can we be wise? Well we can learn wisdom when we meet God, and we meet God when we read His word. We listen to God and attain His wisdom by reading the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." 

When we fill our minds with God’s word, we will slowly be shaped by it. When we are doers of the word and not just hearers the book of James tells us we will be blessed (Jas 1:22-25). 

The Bible is a treasure and a gift because it contains for us all the wisdom we need for how to live life well. Do you see the Bible like this? What do we fill our minds with? I think if we're honest with ourselves, we spend more time surfing the internet for things to watch and scrolling through social media than we do reading our Bibles.

Here is the main point I am trying to make. If we want to thrive in life, we should be filling our minds with true wisdom that comes from God instead of filling our mind with things that we watch online. We should seek out Wisdom instead of seeking out online media.

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Have you ever heard of the concept of garbage in, garbage out? In computer science, garbage in, garbage out (GIGO) is the concept where if the data you input into a program is faulty, then it will produce a nonsense output.

For example, if my computer program asks you to input the date, and you simply write in “yes” the computer won’t know what to do with that and usually output an error of some sorts. This also applies to us as well, if the intake we get is garbage or unhelpful, then naturally we will make foolish decisions. But if the intake we get is from God and his word, then wisdom will naturally flow out of it.

What we watch and expose ourselves to is vitally important. Our intake can make us healthy and wise, or they can make us sick leading to foolishness. So we need to be looking at the right things and looking in the right places for wisdom in the right places. We should seek to fill our minds with the wisdom of God’s word instead of filling our minds with what we watch online.

So instead of looking to online videos as a source of intake, why not take time out to meditate on God’s word instead? The Bible may not be able to give us entertainment like an online clip, but it gives us so much more, it contains the necessary knowledge to navigate life well in this difficult and confusing world. Ultimately God’s wisdom leads to life. The Bible gives us wisdom for salvation.

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As Romans 1:16 writes, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." God’s life-giving wisdom through his Word truly culminates in the Gospel. It is through God’s Word that we can learn about Jesus, the wisdom of his life and the necessity of his death in allowing us to have life. The Bible tells us the answer to the ultimate question of how to thrive in life, and the answer is Jesus. It is only through believing in what Jesus did for us on the cross that we can be in a right relationship with God. It is only through Jesus that we can live a life that is wise as God intended. 1 Corinthians 1:24 states that Jesus Christ is the Power and Wisdom of God. Jesus is both the manifestation of all wisdom and source of true life.

This week instead of first going to your phone, why not instead put the phone down, turn off the computer and try reading your Bible. You won’t regret getting a healthy wise intake from God’s word and reading about Jesus who is the source of true wisdom and life.

Guidance on what to watch

Let me conclude by giving some guidance on what to watch. This is our last section.

Let me answer the question: Should I watch this? I would say that you need wisdom about what to watch. And If we want to be wise about what to watch, we need God’s wisdom from God’s word. I can’t tell you exactly what is good and what is not, but I can give you counsel that you should first look at God’s word for wisdom before deciding.

Our main intake before we even consider watching anything should be to look intently at God’s word. This is because wisdom is knowing when to say yes to watching something and when to say no.

It is okay to watch videos online. Most of the content and videos we watch are not bad, In fact I watch videos on youtube all the time, I watched one about how to cook rice remember? But we need to be wise to make sure we are discerning on what we watch. This wisdom comes first and foremost from God’s word.

There are many good things we can watch online, and we can thank God for allowing the invention of the internet and the ability to watch this media so easily. There is now easier access to good resources such as online sermons and worship music. Online videos are like any tool, it can be used for good and it can also be dangerous if misused. A hammer is really good at pushing nails in, but it can also be used as a dangerous weapon.

I’m not saying we should substitute all our online video watching for Bible reading, but what I am saying is that we need to reorganise our priorities. We should seek God and read His word first as a priority before we decide on watching things online.

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So how can we be wise with what we watch? Let me give you some way about how we can be wise about what we watch. We can be wise by being discerning and being self-controlled.

Be Discerning

One way we can be wise about what we watch is by being discerning. We should be discerning in what we watch online. Measure what we watch against what God’s word says should be good to watch. Philippians 4:8 tells us, "Finally, brothers and sisters, 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."

You should make sure we are filling our minds with what is good according to God’s word. It is okay to enjoy and watch movies, but we need to try and fill our minds with things that are wholesome and edifying. There are three categories we could use to help us be discerning: Is this material helpful, neutral or sinful? 

  • Helpful

    Does what I am watching help me in life? Does what I watch help me to be faithful to God in the role he has given me. Does it help me understand and glorify God better? Is what I’m watching making me more holy? Is what I am watching contain wisdom from God’s word? These are the questions you should be asking yourself before you watch, and if the answer is yes to these, then the videos may be helpful.

    Some of these things could include educational videos helping you to be a good student. It could be sermons that help you understand God’s word better. It could even be about wildlife if it helps us understand God’s creation and glorify him. These are the helpful videos that might be good to watch.
  • Neutral

    Neutral things are things that may not be helpful, but they may not be sinful either. Most entertainment is included in this category. Things like sports, movies, games, I would even say that social media videos would even be a neutral media.

    Now it is not bad to watch neutral things, by themselves they may not be bad, but it is wise to watch these in moderation. Too many neutral things can also lead to possibly sinful things such as addiction, sloth and idolatry which leads us to our next section.
  • Sinful

    If watching something causes you to sin, you should definitely not watch it. This may include if watching something causes you to desire things that God wouldn’t want. This is the principle spoken of in Matthew 5:29.

    An easy example is sexually explicit materials. These can easily cause a person to lust after images and pursue sex in a way that is outside of God’s intended design. Additionally, if what we watch has sinful acts in it, this may also be sinful to watch. Things that encourage violence, or criminal activity may also be under this sinful category should definitely be avoided. If we find enjoyment from sinful things then this is a problem and we should avoid placing our enjoyment on sinful things.

    Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:21, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." For those who are Christians, our desire for God’s word should rise above and beyond our regular enjoyment of what we watch over videos or movies.

Now these three categories -- helpful, neutral and sinful -- are just guidelines. Proverbs 11:14 tells us, "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety." 

What goes under each category may be different for each person. Everyone struggles with something different so I would say that the best way to be discerning is to share what you watch with a wise friend from church and ask them. Sometimes we may not know what is neutral and what is sinful, so we need wisdom from others to help us decide.

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If you’re not sure who to ask, our youth leaders are here to help you in discerning, so when we break into our discussion groups, ask them what they might think is helpful and what might be neutral and what might be sinful. We should be discerning about what we watch online.

Be Self-Controlled

The other way we can be wise about what we watch is by being self-controlled. Proverbs 25:28 warns us: "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls."

Is it okay if I watch this? quote 8Because of the dangers of watching potentially dangerous material, particularly on the internet, we should exercise self control and watch things only as much as we need to. We should not surf for videos on social media or television without a purpose. When we surf without a purpose, it can lead us to dark and unhelpful places. The digital wanderer is looking for trouble. So when you need to go online to watch something, make sure you have a purpose. Go with a plan and once you complete your tasks get off the internet. If you just want to go on a watch to relax, set yourself a time limit and stick to it. Watch for 30 minutes then get off. Be self controlled. Having someone to be accountable to can also help us exercise self control over how much and what we consume on the internet.

We need to be wise in what we watch. In this next week, instead of first picking up your phone to watch something, let’s instead pick up our Bibles knowing that we need God’s wisdom to know what to watch.