As with all forms of art, movies have been a controversial topic for Christians. In the years before the invention of motion pictures, theaters were often associated with prostitution, drug use, and other illicit activity (a far cry from today’s cinemas, where you may be asked to leave for using your mobile phone). The controversy over entertainment has continued, and now with the invention of radio, television, and other at-home and portable viewing devices, it becomes even more important.

In the early 1970s media theorist Marshall McLuhan declared, “The medium is the message.” In other words, how we share a message influences its meaning. Film is a powerful storytelling medium that has made societies more visual and experiential. These elements can promote positive narratives, or damaging ones. They can make us unsatisfied with “real life” and despair that we cannot exist in the fictional world of the movies; or they can make us unsatisfied with the world in a way that energizes us to work in order to improve it. Some of this debate depends on culture, a lot on a film’s content, and how much time and money we invest in consuming film, instead of creating our own world.

In selecting what to watch, we should be guided by the principles found in Psalm 101, where King David declares, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me” (v. 3). In Philippians 4:8, Paul adds, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

The Bible tells us to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). In other words, the medium of film isn’t inherently evil. However, if used without discretion it can expose us to distorted views of reality and cause us to invest undue time and resources into it. As with any aspect of our lives, prayerfully consider how the Spirit impresses your heart when choosing how to invest your time.