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Londoners give up firstborn child for Wi-Fi

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A young mother holds her 4-month old son while she tries to work on her laptop at sidewalk cafe (Credit: Ekaterina Pokrovsky via Fotolia)

A security company in London recently sponsored an experiment to show how little attention we pay to Internet agreements.  They set up an open Wi-Fi network in a busy public area.  When people connected, they were presented with lengthy conditions and terms.  Included was a “Herod clause” that offered free Wi-Fi in exchange for the company’s ownership of the user’s firstborn child.

Six Londoners agreed.  Presumably they did not read the terms and conditions, thus illustrating the security firm’s point.  Or perhaps they’d had a rough day at home that morning.

When you log onto the Internet, how often do you read the terms before you check the “agree” box?  Most of us don’t.  According to surveys, just seven percent of us read the full terms when buying online or using the Internet.  Fifty-eight percent of adults would rather read a credit card bill; 12 percent of us would rather read the phone book.  And there’s not enough time to read everything we agree to online—we’d spend 76 days a year doing so.

As a result, we are at the mercy of whoever writes the terms and conditions we accept.  One survey found that one in 10 were locked in a longer contract than they expected; one in 20 lost money by not being able to cancel or amend agreements.

There are cultural and spiritual implications here.  On the cultural side, we are fast becoming a society dependent on technology we do not take the time to understand.  Many of us believe whatever someone writes on Wikipedia or in an Internet blog, without checking the facts.  We use devices that tell marketers things we don’t want them to know.  Identity theft victimizes 15 million Americans a year, costing us $50 billion.  Even the deceased are not immune.  The Social Security numbers of 106 million dead people are in use today; more than 2,000 deceased persons are victimized daily.

On the spiritual side, it is vital that we seek and trust the advice of those who seek and trust the Lord.  Reading recently in 2 Samuel, I came to the 13th chapter, where Amnon rapes his sister Tamar and is eventually murdered by his brother Absalom.  The text says that “Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for Amnon to do anything to her” (v. 2).  Unfortunately, “Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother.  And Jonadab was a very crafty man” (v. 3).  He showed Amnon how he could arrange to be alone with Tamar.  Amnon followed Jonadab’s advice, and the tragic rest of the story is history.

Scripture repeatedly warns us against ungodly advice:

  • “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20).
  • “Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge” (Proverbs 14:7).
  • “Faithful are the words of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).
  • “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
  • “Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool” (Proverbs 19:1).
  • “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).
  • “The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26).

By contrast, God will always advise us for his greatest glory and our greatest good: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).  His word calls us to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

So we have a choice to make.  We can seek and heed the advice of those who may not be following God’s Spirit, or we can go first to our Father for direction and counsel.  We can ask him to give us wise advisors and the discernment to know and follow his wisdom through theirs.  Then we can claim his promise: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

Are you delighting in the law of the Lord today?