Before I was called to be a church pastor, I trained as a journalist. For many years, I was a media spokesman for a Christian organization, and I dealt with news reporters almost every day. Today, in addition to my calling as a pastor, I also edit the Evangelical Times newspaper. I don’t think I’ll ever lose that sense of being a newshound. But I’m increasingly concerned about the way Christians consume and digest the news media.

The Need for Wisdom

In this age of twenty-four-hour rolling news and social media algorithms constantly feeding us a never-ending stream of breaking headlines, we need wisdom. The Bible tells us that wisdom starts with a fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10), not a cowering fear of a vicious tyrant but a reverential fear of a loving Father. And Scripture says that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God who gives generously (James 1:5). Wisdom is not the same thing as knowledge. I know many knowledgeable people who are not in the least bit wise, and I know many simple folks who are among the wisest people I have ever met. Wisdom is exercising good judgment to think and to do what is right in God’s eyes.

So when you scroll through the headlines on your smartphone, turn on the television news, open your newspaper, listen to the radio, or log on to the internet, do so wisely. Does your heavenly Father approve of the news content you’re viewing? Is it helping you to have good judgment? Or is it simply puffing you up with knowledge? Even worse, is it distorting your ability to see and understand what it good and right? “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). We all need wisdom as we consume the news.

Show Self-Control

We also need self-control. Overeating can seriously damage your health. The same is true when it comes to overconsumption of the news. Research shows the number one platform for reading the news is the smartphone, and the number one pathway to the news is Facebook. The addictive nature of social media has been well documented. Tech firms’ algorithms are designed to keep users online, with infinite scrolling giving us regular dopamine hits. The algorithms are also very good at feeding you more of what you like, so you end up getting a very polarized perspective. Many people have an unhealthy attachment to their smartphone, checking it compulsively every few minutes. Does that describe you?

Christians shouldn’t be addicted to the news. The Bible tells us that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). We are not to be intoxicated by anything—not by wine, not by drugs, not by greed, not by lust, and not by the scrolling news headlines on our electronic devices. But if you have become hooked, remember this: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). So lock your device away in a drawer, walk away, get some fresh air, talk to a friend, and pray to the Lord.

Discern What Is Primary

In addition to wisdom and self-control, we also need discernment. Sinclair Ferguson recently said that true discernment is “not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient.” We need that ability to distinguish when it comes to the news media. The news media like to present everything as urgent, pressing, vital, and crucial. But of course, most of it isn’t.

Take a generous helping of wisdom, add a good deal of self-control and discernment, be aware of worldly biases, avoid unnecessary anxiety, and make sure to guard your heart.

Do we really need to read another story about the latest celebrity calamity? Do we really need to watch another left-right debate between political commentators? Do we really need to listen to another podcast detailing the latest horrific crime? Sometimes the answer may be yes, if it is a truly significant development. But the vast majority of those news stories will be merely transitory and secondary—especially when compared to spiritual things. So learn to be discerning in the news media you consume.

Be Aware of Biases and Secular Worldviews

Of course, we can’t talk about discernment without also mentioning the worldly bias that is often present in the news. The mainstream media generally have an anti-biblical agenda. There may be some exceptions here and there, but generally mainstream journalists have a worldview very different from our own. It’s not just the way that the news is reported but the selection of the news stories themselves that can distort our view of reality.

Perhaps that is why alternative media are growing so fast. But there, too, we need discernment so that we don’t fall into rabbit holes of conspiracy theories and radical fringe groups. We are warned to “avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9). Oh, that more Christians would heed those words today. Nevertheless, there are some good, godly, and faithful alternative media outlets for Christians to use.

Do Not Be Anxious

Amid the swirling reports of wars, pandemics, politics, crime, earthquakes, and scandals, it is easy to become worried and depressed about the state of the world. We can make ourselves unnecessarily anxious by consuming too much news. Again, Scripture counsels us against a fearfulness that makes us doubt the sovereign care of the Lord: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

If you find the news is making you anxious, you may need to drastically cut back on the amount you are consuming. Switch off your smartphone, shut the laptop, unplug the TV, close the newspaper. Give your head and your soul some time away from the drama. Open the Scriptures and remind yourself, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Prov. 19:21).

Guard Your Heart

The volume of infotainment masquerading as serious news is growing. The latest salacious celebrity gossip and the newest glamourous pictures of Hollywood stars are increasingly difficult to avoid if we are following the news media. It is thrust in front of our eyes even if we aren’t searching for it. Not only that, but today’s political analysis is often characterized by nasty invective and foul abuse that—if we are not careful—can have a corrupting impact on our own attitudes.

So we must keep watch and guard ourselves. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23). Remember the glorious promises that have been given to those who are called to be in Christ: “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

Live as God’s Children

I’m writing about the dangers of consuming too much news, but please don’t misunderstand me. Journalism can be a noble profession, and being aware of what is going on can be beneficial. The benefits of a free press are manifold. If we are to fulfill the command to love our neighbor, we cannot be ignorant about what is going on in the world. Keeping ourselves informed will also help us to effectively communicate the gospel to a world that is crying out for truth.

Nevertheless, many Christians are suffering from an unhealthy diet of too much news. Here’s the Bible’s remedy: Take a generous helping of wisdom, add a good deal of self-control and discernment, be aware of worldly biases, avoid unnecessary anxiety, and make sure to guard your heart. In short, “Be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

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