Technology and Discipline
Daniel Wagner // Student Pastor // Fondren Church
Thinking about technology as a 20 something is a little funny. It kind of feels as if I have a love-hate relationship with a member of my own family. Digital technology has been an incredible blessing to the Church and God's people. Through its blessing we have access to sermons, books, and websites like this one that can edify our walk with Jesus. We're also able to rest and recreate in new ways because of the gifts of digital technology. But as everything in life goes, there's always potential bad mixed in with the good. As someone that researchers call a "digital native", when I examine the way that I interact with the digital world, I'm often blind to the way that the technology has its hooks in me.
We all have blind spots in our technology usage. In the classic "Alice in Wonderland", young Alice stumbles upon a seemingly normal tunnel as she invites herself to join a party. As she journeys down the tunnel seeking to be a part of something seemingly harmless, her final quote before she falls "down the rabbit hole" in to an unexpected world of chaos and trouble is "curiosity often leads to trouble." We tend to fall down the proverbial rabbit hole in the way we spend our time on digital entertainment. More often than not, what starts off as "just 5 minutes" turns to 10, and 10 to 15, and 15 to 30, and then we've spent a significant chunk of our day that we had never intended to use on personal entertainment. Spending large amounts "down the rabbit hole" isn't inherently bad, and may be alright every now and then. But when the allow our action to become habits that rule over our life, something is wrong. This passive control happens when we aren't actively aware of what we're doing. The active control of one's life is discipline. I think, as a people, we need technology discipline.
We have a tenuous relationship with discipline as Christians. We love its end result, but hate the process. We want the fruit of discipline, but don't want to put in the work to get that fruit. Even so, we see the benefit to pursuing discipline in certain areas of life. Physical discipline leads to great athletic performance. Spiritual disciplines lead to deeper relationship with our God. We are, however, not in the habit of thinking about practicing discipline in our technology use. We interact with very active technology with a passive attitude. We veg out while watching our favorite TV shows, binge watch streaming services like Netflix, and scroll mindlessly through Facebook and Instagram for hours a day without thinking about whether or not that is the best use of our time.
Everyone can identify that these are problems, but how do we put things in practice in our lives that can free us from the slippery slope that leads to the rabbit hole of wasted time in technology?
1. Unplug from technology to find our rest in God
No believer would argue the truth that God loves and values the discipline of rest. In the beginning God instituted the Sabbath and called his people to keep it (Exodus 20:8). Jesus himself modeled the importance of getting away from it all for the purpose of rest, prayer, and reflection (Luke 5:16). As technology invites us to find rest and refuge in it, we must remember that God is the one who gives true rest (Psalm 62:5). We have to push through the convenient for the significant. While time with God is hard to prioritize and maintain consistently we know that we cannot truly be all that God intends for us to be when we don't prioritize time with Him (John 15:4).
2. Recognize how much time we give technology
God has called us to be good stewards of our lives and the resources He has given us. We can easily understand the preciousness of spiritual gifts and our need to steward them. We make significant effort in stewarding the gift of finances. We forget that time is a precious gift of God in the same way. If God has numbered our days (Job 14:5), ordered our steps (Psalm 37:23), and prepared good works for us to do in advance (Ephesians 2:10), why would we want to risk wasting time? God has placed his people in the world to know Him and make Him known. As the people of God, we must take hold of our time and seek to best steward it for the glory of God. This means recognizing the time we waste and taking steps to break negative habits and tendencies.
3. Pursuing holiness requires self-denial
While none would dare argue that the pursuit of holiness is a miserable process, we often act like any self-denial or self-discipline on our part is outside of God's will for us. We know that discipline is fruitful, but we don’t want to take steps to put it in place. Let me remind you (and me) that pursuing Jesus is our greatest treasure (Matthew 13:44) and in that pursuit we're called to cast off things that may appear good in order to know Jesus more (Philippians 3:7-8). In the field of discipline, we know that growth only comes after sacrifice and pruning, but we avoid the pain because it's easier to continue as things are.
We have an enemy that is wise and uses created things to slowly lull to sleep the children of God. While technology can be a blessing, it can distract us from God's purposes in our lives (1 Corinthians 10:23). I'm far from perfect in this area, but rest in the perfection of a perfect savior who has gone before and calls me to be conformed to his image. I pray you'll join me as we prayerfully keep watch of our technology habits to see God glorified more in the ways we use our time.