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How Much Netflix Is Too Much?

I love to answer the questions that you send in to be answered on the podcast. This week, we got a really great question. The question basically is, how much Netflix is too much? This is a question that comes from somebody who is concerned about how much streaming stuff they are consuming. They might even be getting some questions about some people they’re responsible for about how much of this should we be watching. It could be Netflix; it could be Hulu, it could be Prime, it could be Disney+, it could be your screen time in general, YouTube, and all of those things. But whatever it is, how much Netflix is too much? Let me start my answer to this question by saying that recreation is a really good thing. Rest is a really good thing. We see this embedded right in the fabric of creation that God made the world in six days, and he gave the seventh day as a Sabbath as a day of rest. He wants you in the Old Covenant to do all of your work in six days and then rest on the Sabbath day. Now, we have to be careful what we do with the Sabbath principle. I think, as New Testament Christians, that the Sabbath ultimately points forward to rest from work in Jesus Christ. As Christians, we don’t worship on the Sabbath day. We worship on the Lord’s Day. So there are all sorts of ways that we could take that off in different directions. The point I’m making here is simply that God has built in rest into the fabric of creation. Even if you don’t take a break, you’re going to find that you have to take one sooner or later. You are designed in such a way that you can’t go 24/7. Your eyes are going to close one way or the other. We need to be people who value appropriate seasons of rest just as much as we value hard work.

This has been a lesson I have needed to learn. I’ve got accountability in my life to make sure that I am getting enough rest on a day-to-day basis, on a weekly basis, on a month-to-month, and on an annual basis. Because I’ve just learned over the last couple of years that I’ve got a way that I can push and go and go and go. I find out the hard way from my body that I’ve gone too long without a break. All of us need a break. We deny that and resist that at our peril. Rest and recreation are great things. In fact, I have enjoyed my fair share of viewing various streaming devices. My life is very busy. It’s very full. It is full of a lot of relationship. I’m always communicating with people; I’m always talking or listening. It is a joy for me, on a Saturday afternoon, to sit back and do something different than what I spend a lot of my life reading. I spent a lot of my life talking. I spend a lot of my life listening, and to sit on the couch on Saturday for a little bit and watch a World War 2 documentary is very, very pleasing for me. So it’s good that we find things that are restful and relaxing.

Three Factors to Consider

But like anything in a fallen world, we can overindulge we can, we can go too far, and we can get too much. And that gets to the question of how much is too much? We’re not talking to the people who need rest and when to know when you need rest. We’re talking to the people about, hey, we’re using too much of this, and it’s going in a bad direction. Let me mention three things that I think can help when you know you have crossed a line. First of  all, we learned from Scripture in Romans 14:23 that “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” This is a very important principle. Anything not from faith is sinful. The teaching of the apostle Paul in that chapter of Scripture means that there are some things that are objectively not sins that if you do them for you, they are sins because you’re not doing them in faith. If you do an activity that isn’t objectively sinful, but you think it’s sinful, then even though the activity isn’t sinful in your heart, you are intending to sin against the Lord, and that means your heart is black even though there’s nothing morally wrong with the activity. What this means is we are not allowed to cross our conscience. So if you have a conscience that tells you, hey, I’ve been watching this too much, or I shouldn’t be watching this, I should be doing something else. Well, if that is what your conscience is telling you, your conscience might be wrongly informed. Your conscience might believe the wrong things. But when you cross your conscience, it will always be sinful. So you might need to reinforce your conscience, you might need to talk to somebody who knows more about things than you do to a parent, to a loved one to a pastor, to a close friend, you might need to read the Bible or get some knowledge about these things from books, but don’t cross your conscience. And so if your conscience is screaming at you that what you’re doing is wrong, you’re watching it too much, or you’re watching it when you shouldn’t be watching it all. Don’t sin and cross your conscience because anything not from faith is sin.

Another indicator that you’re getting too much Netflix or too much Hulu, or too much Disney+ is if you’re not meeting your obligations. If viewing, these things are keeping you from the things that are required of you. The reality is nobody has to watch Netflix, nobody has to watch Disney+, and nobody has to watch YouTube. Those are extras, those are add-ons to life, and you don’t need those to rest. But there are things that we have to do. You have to spend time with the Lord, reading the Word of God, and praying. You have to spend time with your family. You have to do that with your physical family, and you have to do that with your spiritual family at church. You have to spend time with those people. You have to work. The Bible is clear that if a man will not work, he shall not eat. So you have to work. And if we are overindulging in Hulu or in Disney+ or in whatever it is so that we are not meeting those other obligations. We’re not spending time with the Lord, not spending time with our family, not spending time with our Christian family, not going to work. Those other things are slipping through the cracks; then we are sinning and not being who God has called us to be and not doing what God has called us to do. It might be good to talk to a loved one about this and just see if are you meeting all of your obligations with your loved ones. Are you serving the Lord in the way that you need to be? Your own conscience will probably let you know. Listen, I don’t think Christians in 21st-century America are at risk of spending too much time in the Bible and too little time on their streaming devices. So that’s always going to be something we want to watch out for.

And then a third indicator that we have crossed a line is the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:8-9 Jesus says if “Your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” Jesus is saying temptation to sin is real, and you have to watch out for it. Listen, on these streaming services; there are a lot of opportunities for you to sin. There are a lot of enticements to love the world and the flesh and the devil. It is a vortex of sin that can pull you into. It’s not all sin. My goodness. I have gotten a lot of wonderful information. I mentioned World War 2 documentaries. I love to watch World War 2 documentaries. I’ve seen hours and hours of those on these various streaming services. And I’m not aware of any temptation to sin in anything that I’ve seen in those documentaries, but that’s not the only thing on the streaming services. And if when you go onto the streaming services if you find your heart pulled into the direction of sin of the sinful outlets on these places. Then the Bible says, metaphorically, you need to discontinue your membership. You need to cut off your subscription because it’d be better to not watch any Netflix than to sin.