“AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, IS MUCH MORE THAN ALL BURNT OFFERINGS AND SACRIFICES.”

— Mark 9:33

Like other forms of entertainment, TV can have quite an impact on our lives and even lead us along a path to heaven.

And I’m not talking about televangelists either.

From daytime soap operas to sitcoms to reality TV series, viewers have ample opportunity to discover God in front of the so-called “idiot box.” In 2006, an individual American watched an average of four hours and 35 minutes of TV a day, according to New York City-based Nielsen Media Research.

Sometimes the TV is just in the background. No one is really watching. I’m a member of the TV age. The screens grab my attention throughout our home. Sports, news, science programs and other offerings are available as soon as my wife or one of my adolescent sons helps me with the remotes.

Some Christians (and non-Christians) have turned off their TVs. I think that’s an admirable decision. It may very well protect their minds from the worldliness that abounds on TV. Of course, sin lurks around other corners.

Even those with TVs use incredible discernment about what they watch. Christians would not be off base calling TV an idol. Given that truth, I feel a little guilty about watching American Idol, rationalizing it as a variety show.

I was a fan of E.R. One of the most remarkable scenes – and among the top of all TV episodes I’ve enjoyed – is a quiet moment with Dr. Mark Green and his daughter, Rachel

In the “On the Beach” episode in 2002, Mark dies from brain cancer. Before he does, Rachel comes to his bedside. Mark remarks that fathers should impart important things to their daughters. He asks her to be generous with her time, love and life. She says she will.

In the same episode, viewers hear a minister reading from John 11:25-26: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’”

It’s always nice to have the Word make its way to millions of homes – even without the benefit of a real preacher.

I was mostly struck by Mark’s “be generous” words of inspiration. I was already a Christian when I watched that scene, so the tenderness between a father and daughter didn’t form my path to heaven.

However, it’s not hard to imagine how a fictional TV show can reach the hearts of non-Christians as they watch TV, think about what they’ve seen, and act upon it. Generosity is a great theme echoed time after time throughout both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

A virtue like generosity isn’t always about money. Whether we give our money or our time, the idea is to get beyond self-absorption. We’re much closer to meeting Jesus when we step away from ourselves and our plans.

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