“Every technology is both a burden and a blessing; not either-or, but this-and-that.”
That’s media theorist Neil Postman in his book Technopoly.
For example, a mother in Oregon is suing Meta (Facebook’s parent company) and Snap, arguing that their respective applications have caused her fourteen-year-old daughter to become so addicted to her phone that “she would get very physical, violent, verbal with me” when the mother attempted to take her daughter’s phone away.
And yet the team behind the YouVersion Bible app reported that 55.8 billion chapters of the Bible were read by its users over the course of 2021.
Our technology is a burden.
Our technology is a blessing.
How do we ensure it’s more the latter than the former?
Denison Forum would like to thank pureHOPE for the following helpful, practical guidance.
Technology, in and of itself is a very good gift and resource we have been given. But, like many other good gifts, we can easily misuse it and even make an idol of it. I would make the argument that our greatest challenge, or danger, technology presents to us is the assault it makes on our time, our attention, and our relationships.
We only get one life and all of us have a limited amount of time and attention. Although the Bible doesn’t specifically mention social media and the gadgets that invade our modern lives, it does give us much instruction and guidance about making the most of the resources that God has given us and not squandering or misusing them.
Are you “making the most of your time”?
In the book of Ephesians, Chapter 5 there is a great passage that we can apply to so many areas of our lives. As we think about our devices and the devices that are occupying so much of our lives, this passage is extremely helpful!
“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15–17 NASB).
Paul is encouraging the people of Ephesus, and for you and me today, to live as God desires us to live. That is to live carefully, wisely and making the most of our time or as another translation says, “redeeming the time.”
When we’re on our devices, so often we are doing the expedient or convenient thing rather than the wonderous or fulfilling thing. We don’t get to ponder and think and take quiet moments of reflection as we once did before the onslaught of technology. We don’t have to wait for anything. It is often in those moments of quiet reflection and stillness where God reveals His glory, and that revelation is what fuels our hope and our trust and our faith in Him.
Often, when we’re on our devices, we are mindlessly wasting our time in an effort to avoid unwanted feelings of boredom or loneliness. It’s what some call Digital Distraction. The average iPhone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day. The average 8-year-old spends 7 hours per day in front of screens. How often are we mindlessly scrolling when we could be engaging with others, engaging with God or simply enjoying a minute of solitude and stillness?
The Psalmist in Psalm 46 encourages us with words that I think can be so helpful for us when it comes to digital distraction. He says, “Be still and know that I am God.” That is so countercultural and so opposed to the natural pull of technology on our time and attention.
You and I gain a deeper awareness of God when we are still. His glory and majesty are best revealed to us in stillness, in silence and in solitude. Our devices, or better said, our tendency to turn to our devices, to avoid the feelings of loneliness and boredom, all too often robs us of that stillness that helps us know God. The ancient discipline of silence and solitude is so foreign to many of us as Christ Followers in the digital age. I truly believe that this lost discipline is one of the biggest barriers to knowing God and the feeling of being known by God in the 21st Century.
Dallas Willard once wrote, “The first and most basic thing we can and must do is to keep God before our minds.”
Is our use of technology helping us or hurting us from doing that?
Facetime vs. face-to-face time
But, it is not only our time and attention that is vulnerable to our use of technology, it is also our relationships. Primarily, I mean our key relationships. Those relationships like family and close friends where our character and compassion are fostered. The community of people God has given us to grow our faith and our joy with one another.
“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 12 NIV).
The technology that existed over two thousand years ago, that was available to the Apostle John, was paper and ink—or papyrus for you scholars out there. I am so thankful for that technology! Because of paper and ink, we have the Bible. Paul uses very similar language in his writings as well. However, John gives us a golden nugget of wisdom when it comes to how we are to live wisely and as God desires for us when it comes to technology. You see, the technology of John’s day also created challenges with relationships. He and other writers of the New Testament like Paul could have chosen to hole-up in some upper room in Jerusalem and spend all their time writing letters of instruction and encouragement to Christ Followers.
John’s words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, teach us technology is to be a supplement, it is to be secondary to human relationships and is never to be our primary way of interacting with one another. You and I were created by God for relationship, and the primary way for us to be in relationship with one another is face to face. Why face-to-face? So “that our joy may be complete.” While every one of us reading this are more connected than anyone else in the history of mankind, we are losing the intimacy, the joy, and the compassion that only a face-to-face conversation can cultivate.
God desires for us to live carefully, wisely, and to make the most of our time. He desires for us to seek out face-to-face conversation and connection. Because he created us and knows what is best for us.
What will your digital stewardship look like going forward?
The Bible tells us to think on things above (Colossians 3:2). Things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Am I using technology and all of my gadgets and devices to think on these things or are they detracting me from doing so? Is social media fostering these thoughts for me?
This year, let’s put a plan in place that allows us to be better stewards of the technology we have. Let’s model good stewardship for our family and friends. Let’s equip those in our lives we lead to thrive in the digital age so that our joy too may be complete!
Dan Martin is the Director of Partnerships & Training for pureHOPE. His primary role is overseeing partnerships and training opportunities with churches, organizations, and both domestic and international leaders. He frequently speaks on topics addressing family, parenting, marriage, Christian leadership, and technology. Dan lives in the Dallas area with his wife, Kathie. They have three adult children and have now reached grandparent status.