What do you eat? More specifically, what do you regularly feed your heart and mind on through the various songs you listen to, programs and movies you watch, games you play, and websites, magazines and books you read? While this may seem like no big deal, it is, actually, much more of a deal than you may imagine.
“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.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV)
God gives us this command because He understands that we are, indeed, what we eat. In the words of computer programming, “Garbage in, garbage out.” But why really is it that big of a deal?
This is a big deal because we, as human beings, are easily influenced. Take the music we listen to, for example. If we consistently feed ourselves a diet of depressing lyrics, we will find ourselves more depressed than we otherwise would be. If we listen to cheating songs, we will find our opinions about that kind of lifestyle shift–perhaps gradually and almost imperceptibly, but they will, nonetheless, shift. Music glorifying violence will likewise eventually be reflected in who we become. If, on the other hand, we choose to listen to music that praises and worships God, that, too, will work on us as we find ourselves more reverent, and as we begin to praise and worship Him too.
It is the same with movies and television programs. Many times we tolerate much for the sake of an interesting or exciting plot, yet there is only so much that we can, or should allow ourselves to, handle.
Every verbal media teaches something–some spell it out for us, but most, especially in entertainment, are more subtle. Yet we are smart enough to get the message–whether it is that our value as a human being depends upon how successful we are, that it’s okay to have sex with someone you’re not married to if you both agree, or that evolution is scientific fact. These and others are subtle lies that we pick up by indiscriminately consuming various media.
“But,” you may groan, “does this mean all I can watch are educational programs and televised sermons, and all I can listen to are hymns?” Not necessarily, but let me ask you–who do you want to be? What kind of a human being do you want to become?
Let’s take this on a physical level. If you are dissatisfied with where your body’s at, first determine your goal; then, research what steps you need to take to get there. Do you want to be healthier? Eat healthier food. Do you want to weigh less? Avoid fats and sugars and modify your portions. It’s the same with the mental stuff–do you want to be less depressed? Don’t listen to depressing music. Do you want to love God more, to feel closer to Him? Then find something that will get you there.
Yes, you may have to give up a little bit of entertainment, because many terrible lyrics are set to a great beat and deceiving messages woven into an interesting plot. Yet you have to determine what is more important to you. That’s exactly what Jesus taught when He said this:
“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (Matthew 18:8, 9 NIV)
He didn’t, of course, mean that we should literally cripple ourselves, but rather, that we should cut out of our lives anything that will keep us from getting into His kingdom. And this is serious business.
So don’t just read this and get on with the rest of your day; take it to heart. Examine your life to see if there is something you’re doing that is keeping you from becoming the person God wants you to be–the person He created you to become. Maybe you’re doing great–maybe you’re reading His Word and keeping close to Him throughout the day, radiating His love and Spirit to those you interact with. But maybe you aren’t as close to Christ as you would like to be. If this is the case, take a look at what your mind is eating. Is any small pleasure that important, compared to missing out on being with Him? Surely it isn’t!
Listen to what Jesus said:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46 NIV)
Nothing in our current experience–no music, no show or movie, no book, no website, absolutely nothing–is worth missing out on a close relationship with Him here in this life and in eternity–is it? Can you honestly imagine yourself standing in His holy, beautiful, and radiant presence completely filled with His love and forgiveness to the exclusion of all else and regretting not listening to a song or watching or reading something that would have jeopardized this?! I cannot!
Help us not be spineless–help us not indiscriminately consume whatever seems interesting or we run across or others are consuming. Rather, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—[help us] think about such things.” ” Amen!