See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil
I do not watch much television, only occasionally go the theater, and, for the most part, do not watch YouTube videos. Among the various genres of television, films, and video streaming I especially avoid comedy, such as Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, and the various sitcoms that occupy television network lineups. Why do I do this? I am somewhat picky, feeling uncomfortable with sensuality and adult humor. What causes me discomfort is how comedy presentations will employ suggestive innuendo, cussing, and crass behavior, making light of these things to provoke laughter, and that, practically speaking, if these broadcasts are consumed they can make an impact on one’s thoughts and behaviors. I understand that others are not bothered by these things, and Scripture could be seen as suggesting that some of this media is alright and acceptable. One of the most familiar passages that appear to endorse this view is from the Gospel of Matthew:
And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man (Matt. 15:11).1
Jesus wanted people to speak in love and kindness, right? He was focused on what they consumed so much as what they did. So why am I unsettled still? Am I too sensitive? It was not until recently that I came across something that gave my concerns Scriptural basis. As I was flipping through the pages of the New Testament I came across Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks (Eph. 5:3-4).
The fourth verse caught my attention. It is fairly common knowledge that the Word of God teaches against immorality, but I was not aware of any particular passage that suggested that crude conversations and humor were inappropriate. I searched out other passages and found similar warnings in other Pauline epistles, such as Colossians 3:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:22, and 2 Timothy 2:16, the last one reading, “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Tim. 2:16). Even looking back to the Gospel of Matthew we can see Christ speak to his disciples about keeping their eyes from darkness (Matt. 6:22-23).
The language Paul denounced included dirty jokes, vulgar innuendo, crass discussions, and irreverent talk. It is clear that he was against unwholesome speech, but does watching programming like Family Guy and South Park allow these sins to come too close? How should we judge what is too much?
Forming a proper perspective of where entertainment ought to fit in our lives is difficult, but there is another teaching that the Apostle Paul imparted in his letter to the Philippians that, I believe, is necessary for a Christian’s engagement with the media:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Phil. 4:8).
What we set our eyes upon we will dwell on, deluding the light of Christ that is to be inside of us. Let us strengthen ourselves with media that is filled with virtue instead of vice. That which has not entered through our sight or our hearing will not come out of our mouths; see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.