The iPhone’s Anniversary
As we begin a new year, many of us will take a moment to reflect upon life, the year past, and the days to come. How can we reorient unhealthy patterns and develop new ones to improve our physical and spiritual health?
Technology use is an area with which many of us struggle to find balance. How much is too much? What is it good for? How can we encourage our families to hold it in its proper place?
[January 9th was] the eleventh anniversary of the release of the iPhone. With how much of our lives and thoughts are consumed by our handheld devices, it’s hard to believe that smartphones have only been in our pockets for just over a decade.
What we need are new life disciplines birthed from a new set of life priorities.
In his book, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, Tony Reinke examines what makes us so prone to become attached to our devices, and how we can guard against unhealthy patterns with use. He writes:
If you own a smartphone, you have likely abused it. Such abuse is the target of countless magazine features, books of lament, and powerful videos that reveal just how foolishly our smartphone overuse influences our lives.
A moment of guilt can be a powerful motivator, but it won’t last. As time wears on and guilt subsides, we revert to old behaviors. This is because our fundamental convictions are too flimsy to sustain new patterns of behavior, and so what seems immediately “right” (turning off our phones) is really nothing more than the product of a moment’s worth of shame. What we need are new life disciplines birthed from a new set of life priorities and empowered by our new life freedom in Jesus Christ.
The Two Greatest Commandments
When digital distractions multiply and the potential for online approval lures us, there is hope for reclaiming God-honoring focus, and it’s found in the Bible. Reinke says:
Scripture makes life focus possible in the digital age, and it does so when Jesus boils down the purpose and aim of our lives into two goals: treasure God with your whole being, and then pour out your God-centered joy in love for others.1 On these two commands all other smartphone laws depend.
What we spend our time doing reflects what we worship. And like with most things, we must be mindful of how our habits reflect our devotion. Reinke warns:
We must watch for signs that our worship is veering off course. We can no longer simply worship God in admiration or pray to him without a compulsive fidgeting for our phones. We talk more about God than we talk to him. Our hearts are more interested in following empty patterns of worship than encountering the Spirit.
Our worship on Sunday seems flat, but our week is filled with an endless quest for Christian advice to fix what we know is wrong. We seek a mechanical relationship with God, searching for new techniques to fill the spiritual void in our lives. Signs such as these reveal how technology degrades our priorities. But worship calls for redirection in our lives.
Ask the Hard Questions
To make sure that our use of technology maintains the proper place in our lives, we must ask ourselves some probing questions. Reinke says:
Self-criticism in the digital age is a necessary discipline—an act of courage. “It is by being able to criticize that we show our freedom. This is the only freedom that we still have, if we have at least the courage to grasp it.”2
Our personal freedom from the misuse of technology is measured by our ability to thoughtfully criticize it and to limit what we expect it to do in our lives. Our bondage to technology is measured by our inability to thoughtfully criticize ourselves. What shall it profit a man if he gains all the latest digital devices and all of the techniques of touch-screen mastery but loses his own soul?
Are we courageous enough to ask?
This article originally appeared here on Crossway.org; used with permission.
1. Matt. 22:34–40.
2. Jacques Ellul, The Technological Bluff (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 411.