I heard someone say long ago that one way to lose an appetite for sin was to watch others do it. Notice someone in a fit of rage, or giving someone a lustful stare; be around someone who is entangled in the chains of bitterness or see the way deceit and gossip tear people down. See the ugliness of sin in action, despise it and then use that as motivation to destroy it in your own life. Of course there is a dangerous slope into hypocritical judgmentalism that must be avoided. But, the bible does tell us to consider the lives of others and to either follow their good example (Heb 13:7) or avoid their bad example (1 Cor 10:11).
So with that in mind, here is my recent observation: Have you noticed how addicted we are to our phones? Now, I realize this is not necessarily a sin, nor is this a new topic. More and more people are writing about the effects of our attraction to technology, good and bad. But here is the narrow window I want us to look through for a moment: How is the attraction we have to our phones impacting – in a negative way – our intimate, personal time with family and friends? If you have not already, take some time to pay attention to what is happening around you. Notice the couple sitting in the coffee shop, immersed not in each other, but in what is happening on the screen in front of them. Pay attention to the mom or dad sitting on the park bench, with children begging them to watch their adventure on the slide, while they fail to look up from the phone. Or observe the family sitting in the restaurant where 1 or 2 or all of them are engaged with Face book, texting or Twitter – rather than the people sitting right next to them. Instead of enjoying that moment in their own life, they are too busy trying to figure out what is happening in everyone else’s.
Of course if you are like me, in order to see these things – you might have to look up from your own phone. The fact is, I love technology. My phone allows me to stay connected with people I care about all over the country, with the news of the day and even receive edification from amazing bible teachers and theologians. I believe this is an incredible gift and I am not advocating for its dismissal from our lives all together. But the fact is, we are taking it to an extreme. I have noticed that I subconsciously go to my phone at any moment, in any conversation – for no real reason at all. I’m just picking it up, I’m scrolling, I’m checking social media – almost with no forethought. It just happens. And I am doing it at the worst of times – at the playground, at the coffee shop, at the restaurant. Last week I was on the couch watching a movie with my youngest daughter and all of a sudden I hear her ask ‘Daddy, will you put the phone down and watch this with me?’ I’m not even sure I remember picking it up – it was just instinctive.
I am not interested in motivation by guilt. The fact is that man-driven guilt rarely causes people to change over the long haul. So here is what I have been pondering: Is there a biblical principle that could inform and encourage us to have a healthy use of our phones, while avoiding the detrimental effects of over-use? Perhaps there are many, but here is the one that sprung to my mind: Romans 12:10 ‘Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves’. The Greek word behind honor is a word that means ‘to treat as valuable or precious’. To honor someone means that we work to show that individual that they are valuable to us. This verse is essentially commanding ‘go out of your way, sacrifice, and ensure that person knows they are of great worth to you’. How many of us feel valuable when the person we are with is more intrigued with the cyber-world than a conversation with us? How many of us feel we are worth something if we have to beg for attention over dinner or during a walk or while taking a drive? And how do our children and grandchildren process their value to us, if they constantly have to compete with the iPhone for our devotion?
We are given a scriptural charge to remind others of their value, to build relationships and to enjoy each others company. For me, that means that I need to leave my phone in the car a whole lot more. It is best to not take it to dinner or to the park or on the walk with my family. I need to leave it upstairs while we play a board game or watch a movie. Technology is a wonderful tool – but it needs to stay in its place. So enjoy those personal, intimate times – be devoted to each other and put the phone down for a while.
Grace and Peace