Psalm 101:3 - I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
In his allegory The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan tells how Christian and Faithful pass through Vanity Fair, where they are offered all types of vanities and sins:
... and this amused the Merchandisers, these Pilgrims had no Wares and they cared little about looking at any more there. If anyone called on them to buy some Wares, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, "Turn away mine eyes from beholding Vanity," and look upwards, showing their trade and traffic was in Heaven.1
Just as Christian and Faithful didn't even look at the vanity of the fair, so we as Christians should not even look at evil. In these verses, David teaches us a few things. First, David admits that he has a choice in entertainment. He says he will set no wicked thing before his eyes, and that implies a deliberate decision in his entertainment. The world is to blame for offering us poison, but we are to blame for taking it.
When Henry Ford mass-produced his Model T car, he said, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black."2 Not much of a choice! Customers may not have had a choice in the color of car, but today we have all sorts of choices in entertainment. At the very least, we can choose to turn off the television or computer or iPod. With David, admit that the things you place before your eyes, the things you place into your DVD player, and the programs you select on Netflix, are your responsibility and your deliberate choice.
Second, David vows to be a purist. He does not say he will set no excessively wicked thing before his eyes, but instead says he will set no wicked thing before his eyes. In the world of entertainment, there is always something worse, and so when we compare ourselves to other people or to what we could be watching, we are adopting the danger of relativism.
Suppose you were doing some yardwork outside after a rainy day and your boots were caked with mud. Before coming indoors, you would want to clean the mud off your boots to avoid soiling your nice clean carpet. How much good would it do you to clean just a single boot while leaving the other caked in mud, and then come inside? Even though you eliminated 50% of the dirt, the carpet would still look disastrous! When it comes to living godly, we need to set our standards by the purity of Jesus Christ and not by what other people are doing or by how bad it could be. Eliminating half the poison doesn't necessarily solve half the problem. Resolve, as David did, to set no wicked thing before your eyes.
Third, David calls sin for what it is: wickedness. Few people today are willing to call wicked entertainment just that. It may be easier to use softer terms, like saying it is not the best use of our time, or criticizing the more vague aspects, such as the philosophy in the shows, while being queasy to call out the gross indecency or obviously immoral scenes.
Suppose a masked man stepped into a bank, pulled a gun on the tellers, and demanded them to hand over all their cash. He hands them a burlap bag as they frantically stuff all the money they can into it, handing the bag full of money back to him. As he jostles away, arms full, suppose one of the tellers turned and exclaimed, "How terrible! He didn't even say please or thank you!" Well, that's what I think some people are doing with standards when they criticize the more vague aspects in bad entertainment but do not call out the obviously wicked aspects. If the only thing you can say against a bottle of poison is that it is not very healthy, others are likely to ignore you, thinking you would say the same thing about cookies or doughnuts. With David, be willing to call sinful entertainment for what it is: wickedness.
Fourth, David hates sin. Not only does he avoid placing it before his eyes, but he also has hatred in his heart for it. To a large extent, this is really missing from the church; we observe sinful behavior so much that we have lost our outrage for it. Yes, we must love the sinner; we were once lost sinners too, and our goal is to rescue them from the wrath to come, but there's nothing wrong with hating the work "of them that turn aside" and "hating even the garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude 23). In fact, there's something wrong with not having this hatred.
Before Christian and Faithful arrived at Vanity Fair (to quote Pilgrim's Progress again), they discuss the topic of salvation with a hypocrite named Talkative. Faithful asks Talkative:
[Faithful] "... How does the saving Grace of God discover itself, when it is in the heart of man?"
[Talkative] "... Briefly, here's my answer: First, where the Grace of God is in the heart, it causes a great outcry against sin there. Secondly..."
"No, no, hold on," said Faithful. "Let us consider that point before moving on. I think you should rather say, 'It shows itself by inclining the Soul to hate its sin.'"
"Why!" asked Talkative. "What difference is there between crying out against and abhorring of sin?"
"Oh! A great deal," Faithful responded. "A man may cry out against sin or policy, but he cannot hate it, but by virtue of a godly antipathy against it. I have heard many cry out against sin in the Pulpit, who yet can abide it well enough in the heart, house, and conversation. ..."3
If professing Christians and families truly hated sin, the church would not be in the situation it is in today, with an overall lack of righteousness and little thirst for it. Resolve, with David, not simply to reject sin, but to hate it from the heart.
In summary, this verse from Psalms is a great starting point for those serious about keeping their hearts from evil and living a godly life. Admit that you have a choice in the entertainment you watch. Vow to be a purist and to set no wicked thing before your eyes. Call sin for what it is: wickedness. And finally, make sure you have a healthy hatred for sin, and don't become desensitized to it. Doing these things will help you to keep your heart!