When the serpent in Eden tempted Eve he did so to a great extent by sight. He got Eve to question God’s word and God’s motives by saying, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5 - emphasis added). Then it says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she tool of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6 – emphasis added).
Television can be a wonderful tool used for the glory of God. But it can also be used for evil influences. This article isn’t a TV bashing piece. I admit that personally, I watch TV, a lot of TV. I get a lot of information from TV and from watching and reading material from the Internet off of a computer screen. But something that I find interesting is how TV, something we see and watch can have such a mesmerizing effect on people. Some people lock in to a program and a bomb cold go off and they still wouldn’t be diverted from their trance like focus on the screen. Studies indicate that watching TV is linked to a negative effect on health.
For decades, research and studies have demonstrated that heavy television-viewing may lead to serious health consequences. Now the American medical community, which has long-voiced its concerns about the nation's epidemic of violence, TV addiction and the passive, sedentary nature of TV-watching, is taking a more activist stance, demonstrated by its endorsement of National TV-Turnoff Week.
The average child will watch 8,000 murders on TV before finishing elementary school. By age eighteen, the average American has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders. At a meeting in Nashville, TN last July, Dr. John Nelson of the American Medical Association (an endorser of National TV-Turnoff Week) said that if 2,888 out of 3,000 studies show that TV violence is a casual factor in real-life mayhem, "it's a public health problem." The American Psychiatric Association addressed this problem in its endorsement of National TV-Turnoff Week, stating, "We have had a long-standing concern with the impact of television on behavior, especially among children."
Millions of Americans are so hooked on television that they fit the criteria for substance abuse as defined in the official psychiatric manual, according to Rutgers University psychologist and TV-Free America board member Robert Kubey. Heavy TV viewers exhibit five dependency symptoms--two more than necessary to arrive at a clinical diagnosis of substance abuse. These include: 1) using TV as a sedative; 2) indiscriminate viewing; 3) feeling loss of control while viewing; 4) feeling angry with oneself for watching too much; 5) inability to stop watching; and 6) feeling miserable when kept from watching.
Violence and addiction are not the only TV-related health problems. A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey released in October 1995 found 4.7 million children between the ages of 6-17 (11% of this age group) to be severely overweight, more than twice the rate during the 1960's. The main culprits: inactivity (these same children average more than 22 hours of television-viewing a week) and a high-calorie diet. A 1991 study showed that there were an average of 200 junk food ads in four hours of children's Saturday morning cartoons.
According to William H. Deitz, pediatrician and prominent obesity expert at Tufts University School of Medicine, "The easiest way to reduce inactivity is to turn off the TV set. Almost anything else uses more energy than watching TV."
Children are not the only Americans suffering from weight problems; one-third of American adults are overweight. According to an American Journal of Public Health study, an adult who watches three hours of TV a day is far more likely to be obese than an adult who watches less than one hour.
Sometimes the problem is not too much weight; it's too little. Seventy-five percent of American women believe they are too fat, an image problem that often leads to bulimia or anorexia. Sound strange? Not when one takes into account that female models and actresses are twenty-three percent thinner than the average woman and thinner than ninety-five percent of the female population.
People are literally addicted to what they see, in this case, “hooked on television.” It’s apparent that we are being seriously affected for the worse by the things we are watching or seeing on TV. This evidence indicates there is a cause and effect relationship between the things we see and our mental and physical health. When you remove for instance, the Ten Commandments or things pertaining to God from our schools and public arena and replace them with a proliferation of images of immorality, substance abuse, violence and murder and a host of other dark sinful things, is there any real surprise that we have an ever increasing amount of immorality, substance abuse, violence and murder and sinfulness in society? But there is an even more serious effect to consider.
When Babylon is destroyed in the book of Revelation it states, “and they cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning” (Rev. 18:18). When they saw the symbol of worldly wealthy lusts go up in smoke they wept. The apostle John said:
• 1 John 2:15-17 - 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
In these verses John refers to the “lust of the eyes” and he says it is “not of the Father but is of the world.” The word “lust” (ἐπιθυμία - ĕpithumia, ep-ee-thoo-mee´-ah) speaks of a longing, craving, strong desire or passionate lust. We might even go so far as to see this as a kind of addiction. There is a perverse passionate longing that can characterize the way we look at things. And connecting such lustful looking to the things of this world is not a good thing.
John gives the reason for not buying in to what one sees in this world saying, “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” This world is not going to satisfy. It is temporary. The wisest man to ever live, Solomon, looked at the things of this world separate from God (i.e. “under the sun”) and assessed it as “vanity” or a vapor. He said focusing on this world is like “grasping for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:17; 2:26). There is a better way. Solomon came to the conclusion that we need God (Eccl. 12:13-14).
As Christians we need to watch what we watch. It’s possible for Christians to be caught up in the lusts of what is around us to see. Satan is going to put stuff out there to tempt and draw us away from the Lord and His best for us. There’s a good example by contrast found in the Old Testament in this regard.
In Peter’s second epistle he speaks of “righteous Lot” and how he was saved by God from judgment and “the filthy conduct of the wicked” (2 Pet. 2:7). Peter states parenthetically, “(for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented His righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)” (2 Pet. 2:8). Lot was righteous according to God’s word. But when we look at the Old Testament account of Lot we see that he walked by sight. That got him in a lot of trouble. Fortunately for him, “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations . . .’ 92 Pet. 2:9a). Apparently Lot believed in God and, like his uncle Abraham, was accounted righteous because of his trust in God (cf. Gen. 15:6). In the second part of this series we will look further at the contrast between Lot and Abraham as well as discover the way of those who live with eyes of faith.