THE SPIRITUAL COST OF SMART PHONES

This week I’m easing back into my regular work week after a little vacation time. I hope you’re able to find some rest and recreation this summer as well. We all need it, and if your like me, struggle to take full advantage of it when it does avail itself.

One of the things I find myself needing to take a break from most is my phone. The internet, social media, entertaining videos, all vi for my attention on a regular basis, but my phone…that square headed little gremlin scheming in my pocket, is constantly crying out for attention, and if I’m honest, I kind of like it.

As I sat down to write this today, I realized I’d left my phone at home and in a moment of great irony and sad reality, I found myself feeling a sense of loss, fear and even panic thinking about what it’d mean for my day not have it by my side. Fortunately a browser was close at hand and I avoided getting the shakes.

My smart phone can be a great tool to help keep me connected, but it also came with a ton of hidden fees that cost me dearly and can disconnect me from things that matter most like family, friends and God.

What I need most when I disconnect from my work life is to reconnect deeply with my worship life. Genuine rest is better with genuine worship. We need daily time with God for sure; time in the word, in prayer and meditation. It’s a fight to keep the cares and concerns of the world from choking the breathe of the gospel from our lungs. But lets face it, life happens, things get busy and our relationship with God and our enjoyment of grace suffers for it. And when it’s been weeks, months…years of that, what we need is not just a week at the beach or a month in the mountains but sustain, thoughtful, reconnecting time with Jesus. I can leave work at the office and I can usually stay away from email…but my phone; it stows away unconsciously into my times of quiet worship. That phantom buzz seems to scream into my leg at the very moment I sense I’m reconnecting with my Maker.

There are a ton of available apps to help us worship God, but there several million more that keep us from it.

Tim Chester, one of the authors who’s been most helpful in my life, when it comes to teaching me practical gospel application, shared the following insightful questions from an audio interview with Tony Reinke on Desiring God. I think we would do well to consider them personally and answer them honestly ourselves and with others:

  1. Am I becoming like what I behold in my iPhone? Are my face-to-face relationships conforming to modes of communication that are shaped by my online habits?
  2. Am I overlooking my finiteness? I am finite. I am a man severely limited in what I can know and what I can read and what I engage and what I can care about. So do I want to know everything? Do I fear being left behind on what’s trending online right now?
  3. Am I multitasking priorities that should be uni-tasked. Specifically is my time with God in the word and I prayer being distracted and even being replaced by digital interruptions?
  4. I am deleting my embodiment? Do I truly value the personal, face-to-face relationships in my life over the disembodied relationships I maintain online? Are my face-to-face relationships with my neighbour, my wife and my kids suffering as a result?
  5. I am losing interest in the gathered church on Sunday? Baptisms, the Lord’s Supper, corporate worship, the laying on of hands – do I truly value the embodied reality that is my local church? Do I fiddle through it on my phone looking for something more entertaining?
  6. Am I careless with my words? It’s easy for my words to be published online. So what self-imposed limitations do I have to filter what I say and do I have any accountability in my life for what I say online?

I paid enough for my phone a few years ago. I’d like to keep it from costing me even more today. It’s tremendously helpful in our age, but like with everything else I have to be mindful of how and when I use it. I need to develop discipline with it or it will get more of my attention that it deserves.

It’s already a fight to have authentic relationships these days. False community is everywhere and idols are as shiny as ever and there’s an even bigger better one around the corner to keep us glued. The subject is worth a conversation and at the very least as Christians we should add it to our talking points with others we’re accountable to.

Listen the whole audio interview with Tony Reinke here.

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