Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
There is an old computer programming principle commonly expressed by the acronym GIGO — “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” Simply stated, if you input garbage on the programming side, you will get garbage in the output, on the software or function side.
I have found that the GIGO principle applies to more than programming, however. It applies to entertainment, education, really every sort of input we allow for our children. If they watch, play — even if they read — a steady stream of junk, we ought not to be surprised if junk is what comes out of their mouths or school work.
Even quality matters; just because a book or movie is not harmful does not necessarily make it useful. If it is shoddily written, poorly thought out, or has a pointless story line or even none at all, it is garbage and does not encourage insightful and thought-provoking output. We can expect no Pulitzer Prize-winning ideas to grow from minds sown with pure and unadulterated diversion for diversion’s sake. Garbage begets garbage.
But let me take this to another level. Our children aside, GIGO has bearing on us adults as well. What they read, watch, and consume has direct bearing on how their minds are being shaped, but what we read, watch, and consume has just as direct a bearing on how our lives are being shaped… and on how we shape the lives of others.
As Christians, we are called to a higher standard of thought; not merely to goodness, but to holiness. Our lives are meant to reflect the light of Christ everywhere we go, but in order to accurately portray our risen Lord, we have to let His life flow in and through us. As He told His disciples, He is the Vine and we are the branches. Only by abiding in Him constantly can His life fill and sustain us in this chaotic and often confusing world.
Just as the branch does not snatch a quick sip from the grapevine and then spend the day trying to withstand the scorching sun alone, we cannot expect to really experience the fullness and richness of the power of God in our lives unless we are willing to constantly, continuously abide in Him, drinking deeply from the Fount of Living waters and ruminating on the Bread of Life throughout our days. And that means being very careful about what ideas we allow to access our minds.
I am not saying that we should never have recreation, never read or watch movies for pleasure. Not at all. But we ought to think about what we read and watch. What is its message? What was the author or producer’s purpose? Does it have value above mere entertainment or is it just a mindless waste of time? Does it push an agenda that is in disagreement with God’s Word? Does it uphold Scriptural principles or scorn them?
Folks, these things matter! If we spend fifteen minutes with the Lord each morning and then several hours soaking in ungodly ideologies, what ought we to expect the fruit to be? If our input is screwy, so will our output be. Garbage in, garbage out. I love how Charles Spurgeon puts it:
You cannot expose the soil of your heart to a continual sowing of tares because some tare or other will take root and, by-and-by, instead of having the good wheat growing in your soul, there will spring up the tares whose end is to be burned and you will have lost the harvest which should have been produced in your spirit.
It is worthy of note that Spurgeon was not even talking about entertainments but false doctrines. Even the preaching we listen to must be examined through the lens of Scripture. There is nothing immune to the devil’s twisting, distorting influence! Again, however, if we do not know the Word for ourselves, how easily will we fall prey to the sowing of tares; how readily will we allow the garbage in.
Paul warned the Ephesian church to make “the best of the time because the days are evil.” We should also heed this warning, for our days are no less evil and our time no less short. So let’s prayerfully examine our input from this day forward and be ready to cast the garbage into the refuse heap where it belongs.
… test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Thessalonians 5:21-23