You are influenced by the world around you. I think we can all agree on that. So, it’s also safe to assume that each variable of the world around you will either influence you in a good way or a bad way. But let’s look at it using different terminology.
Scripture’s terms for these influential variables are “good fruit” and “bad fruit.” There is no such thing as neutral fruit. It simply isn’t possible. Everything in life eventually produces some kind of fruit, some kind of influence, and this doesn’t just apply to people. The things we do and the hobbies we hold will each pull us in one direction or the other. So how can you judge whether something like a book, a movie, or a song is producing good fruit or bad fruit? It isn’t always obvious.
Let’s look at movies as an example. Each and every time you watch a movie, once it’s thru and the credits begin to roll, you will feel a series of emotions. Maybe you feel motivated to begin working out. Maybe you want to learn how to cook. Perhaps you would like to write more, or go on a trip around the world, or rob a casino (Ocean’s Eleven). Maybe you feel sad, or even romantic. You want to buy flowers, you want to write a note to someone. You want to be in a war and kill some bad dudes and blow up cars. Maybe you want your money back because the movie sucked. One way or another, you feel drawn in some direction. It is unavoidable.
Why is this the case?
While something is being crafted and created, it is covered with the fingerprints of each person who had a hand in it. They’re the ones kneading the dough, so to speak, putting their thoughts and emotions and love (or hate) into it. They leave marks, oil comes off their hands, and part of them is deposited into the thing they create. A spiritual residue is left on this creation forever. The stuff that makes up this residue is what we feel when we see a movie or read a book. We are influenced on some level by the residue that was left on the thing we have just encountered.
I just saw “The Book of Eli” in theaters, and it is a tremendous example of this. The movie centers on a post-apocalyptic story of one man’s journey to protect the last Bible on Earth. At the end of the movie, in spite of the four letter words and blood and violence, when it was over all I wanted to do was be with God, worship Him, and read His Word. It was the residue of the creators that had led me to a place of reverence for Him.
Here is a more straightforward example. You’ve heard the expression, “garbage in, garbage out.” This is essentially what I am talking about, only on a much more subtle level. If you watch a TV show once a day, every day, and that TV show uses a lot of foul language and crude jokes, you will begin to think those words and find those jokes funny. Eventually you will be using them yourself. The residue that was left on the show by its creators was made up of these things, so those are the fingerprints which rubbed off on you.
But these things are not always so obvious. There are no FBI-mandated warnings at the beginning to say, “Please be aware that this film may make you want to curse, look at porn, or start smoking.” You simply have to stay conscious of the fact that there are things in this world that we cannot see or touch or hear, but which may be just as influential as those that are.