“But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that… they that buy, [be] as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away” (1 Cor.7:29-31).
“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph.5:16).
We live in the Digital Age, and we have been told that it is a wonderful thing, changing our lives for the better. But this is only partly true. Although there certainly are many positive aspects, there are also many negative ones, which are very serious and potentially extremely dangerous to our spiritual well-being.
Computers, Tablets, Smartphones: Redeeming the Time? Or Wasting It?
Computers certainly are extremely useful, and indeed are virtually indispensable in the modern world. They are part of this world; and although, as the text above says, we may use the legitimate things of this world, we are never to abuse them! We are to redeem the time. And this is precisely where these things are being abused, instead of being used legitimately, by so many Christians; for they can be massive time-wasters, and many are guilty of wasting precious time on them. If the reader is a child of God, and yet comes home from work and proceeds to frit away his evenings playing with his various electronic “toys”, hour after hour and night after night, it is time to stop and take a good, long, hard look at exactly what is happening.
Many Christians used to read much; but it is safe to say that probably the majority of professing Christians do not read anywhere near as much anymore. Why is this? They will say, “I don’t have the time.” Oh, but you do, brother or sister: you do! It is not that you lack time, but rather that you are not using it properly. You are wasting it away on other things; and many of you know that what you are wasting it on is your laptop or your smartphone! You come home, and instead of picking up a book containing sound doctrine, or the life story of one of the servants of the Lord of the past, you surf the net, or play mindless, pointless, even sinful video games, or watch movies online. Reading is now neglected in favour of electronic time-wasters.
Furthermore, many believers, who used to have much time for family and friends, now have so little of it. Why? Again, for many it is their slavish dependence on their electronic “toys”. They used to teach their children the Holy Scriptures, and read them a bedtime story; now they do not. It seems a lifetime ago when they used to sit in their living rooms with their family gathered around, and enjoy those quiet evenings together; now they do not, for television destroyed that decades ago, and laptops, tablets and mobile phones have just made it worse. They used to spend time visiting their friends, their brethren in the Lord; now they do not.
Computers, smartphones, etc., can certainly be very useful tools; but if we love them inordinately, then they have mastered us, and not we them. Misuse and over-use of technology is the problem, not technology itself. The Bible tells us to redeem the time. If used properly and for legitimate purposes, these tools can save time; otherwise they do not save time, but actually waste it.
There is so much more to life than technology and gadgets! As Christians we have so much to do, and we should not waste a moment of the precious time the Lord has entrusted to us. “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (Jas.4:14). “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away…. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psa. 90:10,12). How many believers, as their life draws to a close, will look back and say, “I wish I’d spent more time on my laptop, or tablet, or phone”? When it comes time to die, the fact that they did not spend more time with their “toys” will surely not be one of their regrets.
The fact is, digital technology is addictive. Christian: use it for legitimate purposes, within reason, and within strictly controlled time limits; then shut it down, get off your chair, walk away from it, and go and do something else!
Ask yourself this: am I the master of my laptop or smartphone? Or has it mastered me?
The internet is an amazing thing. It is one of the greatest technological inventions of all time. Christians can and should make use of this wonderful tool. But tool is the key word. It is a great tool; but that is all. It can be an instant worldwide library at your fingertips. It can be so many useful things. But it is also a world of danger! Here are some of the dangers it poses:
Firstly, it is a threat to your time. How easily, and how quickly, it can become all-absorbing, and before you know it you have idled away hours of precious time.
Secondly, it is a place of great temptation. Well over half the world’s internet use is for accessing pornography. The devastating effects of porn are wreaking havoc across all societies, especially when it is so easily accessible.
Thirdly, it is riddled with false doctrine and false religion. It seems as if it should be unnecessary to even say this, but sadly it is not: not everything that calls itself “Christian” on the net is truly Christian! Not every website is sound. Not every “fact” is truly a fact. It is astounding how gullible people are. “I read it in the papers, or I saw it on TV, so it must be true” has now also become “I read it online, so it must be true.” But anyone with a computer can create a website! They do not have to know what they are writing about. They can make lies sound like truth. Although electronic publishing has been a tremendous boon to Christians as they seek to take the Gospel to the world, it must always be borne in mind that the same marvel which is such a blessing to them, also allows anyone and everyone else to publish whatever they like as well. As a result, the internet is flooded with rubbish.
Even in the pre-internet days, people had to exercise discernment when going to a public library and researching anything, for not all books providing information are created equal. But it seems that when it comes to what is available online, so many people – even those professing to be Christians – show absolutely no discernment whatsoever.
Fourthly, another great danger of the internet is that it may so easily cause an absolute information overload. The internet age is also the information overload age. There is just so much information flowing into people’s heads every single day. This is not a good thing. It exhausts the brain, and unfits us for more important things. So many people are just far too exhausted, going through each day barely half alive; and a major cause of this is that their brains never rest. They are constantly taking in information. Their heads swirl with information. They never relax. Everywhere one looks, one sees people bent over their tablets, or phones: in restaurants, as they walk down the street, even on the beach.
And this is true of believers as well, for they are allowing themselves to be swept along with the tide. This affects the Christian’s prayers, for even if he is faithful in setting aside time each day for private prayer, all too often his mind is swimming with information overload. It also affects his time with family and friends.
And the technology is moving relentlessly towards everyone being even more “connected” than ever before. But this technology will make people less intelligent, not more so; and just in proportion to how much more connected they will be, they will be far more disconnected from the real world – zombies living in their “virtual world” all the time, their brains and senses completely overloaded with information and images. It is a constant bombardment, and it is not good. It is very, very bad. The fact is, our connected world is destroying us.
In his book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, author Nicholas Carr pointed out that all this technology renders people less capable of deep thinking. He found this to be so by personal experience, as he was trying to do the research for his book: he was constantly being distracted because he was so “connected”. “So, I abandoned my Facebook and Twitter accounts and throttled back on email, so I was only checking a couple of times a day, rather than every 45 seconds,” he said. “I found those types of things really did make a difference.” He said that at first he felt “befuddled” by his sudden lack of online connection, but that after a couple of weeks he was able to stay focused on one task for a sustained period of time. Millions of others, if they were honest, could testify to that feeling of “befuddlement” when not “connected”. This just proves how addictive this technology can be. In fact, as explained in the DVD, Digital Cocaine, these devises most certainly are addictive, just like a drug. Dopamine is released in the brain by their use. “Digital dementia” is an induced form of Alzheimer’s in children: they begin to forget the little things, and as time goes on their ability to retain information deteriorates.
Christian: you simply do not have to be connected every minute of every hour of the day! You should not even want to be. There is so much more to life than surfing the net! Are you master of your internet usage – or has it mastered you? Is it a tool, or is it a tyrant? Are you so busy “surfing the net”, that you haven’t noticed you’re actually a serf of the net?