Some Biblical Perspectives About The News

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.  As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.  The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Proverbs 26:20-22

It seems like hardly a day goes by without news pundits either reporting or opining on some sort of controversy which quickly sparks outrage.  Have you ever stopped to wonder why that is?

The main reason all these controversies which outrage us exist is…because they outrage us.

They make the news because the news is in the business of making money.  High ratings make money for them because that means advertisers will pay them more to have commercials on their channel and during the time slots of their highly-rated shows.

The controversies they continually bring to our attention outrage us, so we tune in…and thus give them the ratings they wish and the money they crave from advertisers.  They recognize this, and so they keep on allowing anyone with any sort of foolish grievance to continue to get airtime.  That means more money for them.

Plus, the people with the foolish grievances know this.  They know that airing their own outrages will produce further outrage from those who oppose them.  They know that all of this will make money for those who give them the news platform, which in turn will help their cause.  So they keep coming up with their petty problems, and the news keeps publicizing it.  For our part, we keep reacting to it, which encourages them to keep on doing it.  It’s a vicious cycle.

The answer is to simply ignore them.  Stop giving attention to the news cycles which give them publicity.  Do that, and the ratings will lower.  Once that happens, the news will suddenly determine that these guys aren’t “newsworthy” anymore.  And without that publicity which gives them the attention they crave, their foolish causes die out.

So why don’t we ignore them?  This gets us to the Proverbs passage above.  Could it be that we like being outraged?  Could it be that the words of those whisperers are like delicious morsels to us?  Could it be that we ourselves contribute to the problem, that the problem couldn’t exist without us adding wood to its fire?

Maybe the key to the whole mess was Colossians 3:1-2 all along…

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Are you a “news junkie”?  Is cable news, news podcasts, news articles, and the like constantly in front of your eyes and in your ears during the majority of your free time, and maybe even while you’re on the clock at work?  Christians, maybe you should take more time to “set your minds” on something higher.  Let your earbuds pipe some sermons from Scripture into your ears while you’re jogging or painting that house.  Perhaps dedicating only a small portion of your free time per day to catching up on the news would be a good thing, and use more of your free time learning about and carrying out the will of God.  It will do you some good, I promise.

Perhaps Paul’s mindset is what we must have in our own minds…

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Philippians 4:11

He wrote that while in prison, you know.  Not only that, but he had been staying in prison for two years by that point simply because a government official who knew he was innocent kept him there, hoping for a bribe (Acts 24:26-27).  Talk about having a reason to get upset with a politician!  But not Paul.  Maybe we should learn from him in this.  We are told to imitate him, after all (1 Cor. 11:1).

Maybe this is what we should strive for…

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

1 Timothy 6:6-8

It’s kind of hard to get outraged or worried when you’re truly content with your life… in spite of what they’re yelling about on the news.  In fact, if we are truly content like Paul was, then it would be a lot easier to obey this command from God:

Do all things without complaining or arguments; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding firmly the word of life, so that on the day of Christ I can take pride because I did not run in vain nor labor in vain.

Philippians 2:14-16

Be honest.  When was the last time you or I went for an entire 24-hour period without disobeying verse 14 even once?  It hasn’t happened that often, has it?  Especially if you’ve got the news on.  Keep in mind that God directly connects not complaining or arguing with proving ourselves to be blameless and innocent and above reproach.  He directly connects it with us shining our lights in the world and holding fast to the word of life (cf. Matt. 5:16).  Are we doing that, Christians?

Here’s one more thing to consider from Scripture.  While giving direction to the preacher Timothy about how to handle charges of sin against elders in the church, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write this:

…keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.  Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.

1 Timothy 5:21-22

The Spirit-inspired apostles is basically saying, “Don’t prejudge and do nothing from partiality.  In other words, look at this matter without prejudice or bias, Timothy.  I know these elders are your friends, Timothy, but sin is sin.  If one of them is proven to be involved in sin and is unrepentant thus far, you need to rebuke him.”  One of the reasons people “laid their hands” on others in Bible times was to appoint them to a particular office or work (cf. Num. 27:18-23).  So Paul is saying, “Don’t be hasty in appointing elders, Timothy.  Make sure they fit all of those qualifications I sent you (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9).  I know you might be close to someone in the church, but if he is not qualified to be an elder, then don’t appoint him as one.  Don’t assume everything is fine simply because you like the guy, Timothy.  Don’t appoint him if he is not qualified.  If he is sinning, don’t take part in his sin (or condone it – Rom. 1:32).  Keep yourself pure.”

Why am I bringing this up?  A lot of us treat the news like the news is Burger King.  We want to have it our way, and if it’s not our way then we will change channels or podcasts or newspapers until we find someone who will tell us what we want to hear…even if the actual facts of the matter say otherwise.  Why are we like this?  Because we tend to prejudge.  Because we tend to be very biased.

Paul warned Timothy of those in the church who, when it came to sound doctrine of God in Scripture, will not “endure it” but instead “will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  The reason they do this, according to Paul, is because they have “itching ears” (v. 3).  What they do with Christian theology, a lot of us do with the news.  We hear only what we want to hear, we see only what we want to see, and if the actual facts don’t coincide with what we want to hear or see, then we will tune them out and search for pundits who will scratch our itching ears.  Instead of looking at the news “without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality,” we look at it with extreme prejudice and view everything through the lens of our partialities and biases.

The news people know this.  One news organization reported riotous protests as “mostly peaceful” even as an entire building set on fire by the protestors collapsed behind the reporter on air because they knew that their viewers were sympathetic to the complaints of that particular group of protestors.  Concerning another news organization, a current court case has revealed evidence, including testimony given under oath from that company’s leader and its most popular show hosts, that they purposefully said one thing on camera while privately acknowledging that the truth was completely the opposite of what they were telling their audience…because that’s what their viewers want to hear.  Our prejudices and biases are why whole news organizations will purposefully report the news in such a way so that they will tell us only what they want to hear.

Christians were told concerning the prophets who preached to them to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).  That same principle would do us good if we applied it to how we watch the news.  Isaiah warned Israel long ago, “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread” (Is. 8:12).  That also would be a good rule of thumb to follow when we watch the news.  However, there’s no way we will apply either of those biblical principles when we look at the news if we are already inclined to believe what we hear because it goes along with whatever political or social preferences or wishes we have.

In summation, what we do with the news — how much we watch it and how we respond to it — can shed light on either strengths or weaknesses we have as a Christian in our walk with God.  I know that when I applied each of the above biblical principles to how I watched the news, it motivated me to see some things about myself that needed to change.  That in turn helped me grow closer to Christ.  Maybe it can do the same with you.

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