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).