I felt like an addict last week, watching episode after episode of House of Cards. After each Netflix marathon, uselessness and emptiness troubled me. The entertainment value of this series wasn’t worth the hours I sacrificed. Although I hoped for something redemptive, each episode didn’t get better in the spiritually edifying sort of way. More untruth, compromise, and immorality were woven into the plot as the series progressed.
At some point, I asked myself, “What am I doing?! I am wasting precious time, time that I am accountable to the Lord for.”
Psalm 24:1-2 and Psalm 50:10-12 tell us that God owns all things. According to authors, John Hay and David Webb, “God holds the patent on you, your neighbors, the animals, the seas, the earth, and the rest of creation…Most of us go through life thinking we hold the title to our lives and our possessions.” However, we are merely stewards.
“A steward is a person who rules over, or is in charge of, property that belongs to someone else. The word steward comes to us from a pair of Old English words meaning ‘household’ and ‘keeper.’ A steward acts on behalf of the owner of a large estate…You see, the steward does not own the estate just as we do not own the money, the time, the talents, and all the other things that God, the Owner of all, has entrusted to our care.” (John Hay and David Webb. What On Earth Can I Do? Apologia Press. Pg. 68, 70 – 71)
It’s not that I was engaging in anything “sinful,” by watching the series. However the Bible encourages us, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (Psalms 90:12)
In other words, I am to steward my time, endeavoring to grow in wisdom. Wisdom is valuable and pleasing to God. Yet how can I acquire wisdom if I am polluting my mind with content that chips away at foundational Biblical principles that I believe in? Do I really want to keep watching scenes of people lying, cheating, and engaging in sexual promiscuity? How does this repeated exposure encourage me to love God and obey Him? The answer is, it doesn’t.
Thankfully, Edric came to the same conclusions as we sat through our Sunday service. He turned over to me and said, “I am going to quit watching Breaking Bad and House of Cards. I was convicted by the passage I read in Deuteronomy.”
His conviction came from a different place, but it’s essence was the same. These are the verses he read: “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God:” Deuteronomy 28:1-2
Edric explained that diligent obedience to the Lord is the intentional pursuit of a life that pleases God. It may sound like such a sacrifice to hold ourselves to God’s standard of goodness and holiness. And yet the amazing thing is that living to please God affords us with a lasting kind of joy, the quality of which is never reached through senseless fun and reckless abandon. Therefore it really isn’t a sacrifice to let go of activities that aren’t spiritually beneficial because the satisfaction they promise is temporal and fleeting.
Was it fun to watch episode after episode of House of Cards? Of course! I enjoyed the plot. I sympathized with the characters and I appreciated the dialogue. However, after each show, I felt like I had injected myself with toxins that did more harm than good to my spirit. And I subjected myself to this for a ridiculous number of hours because it was so interesting! After a while, I actually felt depressed and sick. No real fruit came out of those wasted hours.
Years ago I may not have been compelled to stop watching a series like House of Cards. Yet the more I seek to know God, the more sensitive I become to what is edifying and what is garbage packaged to look enticing. Furthermore, if I can’t imagine watching a movie or program with my kids sitting beside me, then I know it’s got content in it that isn’t healthy for me to habitually watch either. Do I go around telling people that Netflix is a portal of the devil? No. That’s the sort of the legalism that turns people off. We are still Netflix subscribers.
But, I would much rather focus on the more important questions. Is it healthy for any one of us to invite anti-God philosophies, images and ideas into our hearts and minds by indiscriminately watching unedifying shows? What can we do with the precious time we have been given to steward so that we are purposeful and pleasing to God?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have fun and be entertained. God delights in our enjoyment and pleasure. However, there is something wrong when the fun and entertainment stimulate in us an appetite for sinful pleasures. Furthermore, there is something wrong when we squander our time (even if it’s discretionary or “free” time), indulging in activities that do not honor God. But like I said, this perspective has to stem from a personal conviction. To most people these sort of reflections can sound like unattractive legalism. So I am going to quote what my dad said to me and my siblings when we were younger, “It’s good to have a high standard for yourself but don’t impose it on others.” If something is wrong for me, then I should follow the Holy Spirit’s prodding about it. But I am not to take the Holy Spirit’s role in another person’s life.
It’s been several days since I abandoned nighttime series watching, and I actually feel liberated and happy about giving up my House of Cards drama. I am discovering all the better things to do in life then watch Frank Underwood manipulate, use people, deceive, and murder to get to the top and stay on top of the political food chain!