If you have a smartphone, you have more power at your fingertips than you likely realize. For example, your phone is more powerful than the technology NASA had when they put a man on the moon.
Or consider the first hard drive, which held 5 megabytes of storage, yet weighed several thousand pounds. Your smartphone, even the least expensive one, has at least 6,000 times that storage.
Even back in 2007, when Time magazine named the iPhone its invention of the year, we had no idea the impact the smartphone would have on us. It is, by far, the most behavior-changing invention in the history of mankind. Nothing else comes close.
Just think of some of the things we can do more easily now than we could before the invention of smartphones:
- We can get directions to anywhere we want in seconds.
- We can purchase (or borrow) nearly any book in existence, wherever we are.
- We can check our bank account and get the latest news with a couple of quick taps on our phone.
But with great power comes great responsibility. There are downsides to the age of the smartphone. You carry in your pocket a new source for old temptations.
Pastor, here are six hazards you need to know about your phone.
1. Our phones waste our time.
Time is your most precious commodity. You only have a limited amount of it. The average person will live 27,375 days. If you are older than 27 years old, you’ve lived 10,000 of those days. You’ll never get those days back. So be careful how you live. “Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NLT).
We live carefully when we live purposefully. We spend more than three hours a day looking at our phones. That’s nearly one day out of every week—or 11 years of our lives! That might not be a sin, but it’s likely not the best use of our time.
2. Our phones can seduce us to the world’s values.
The world is constantly shouting at you through the Internet. Now you carry the Internet around in your pocket. That’s a temptation previous generations of Christians didn’t face. The world’s value system of sex, salary, and status is on your screen every time you open it.
If you listen to what you find online for long enough, you’ll start thinking it’s right. Eventually, you’ll copy the behavior. Paul tells us this in Romans 12:2: “Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him” (CEV).
In the world’s value system, only the most beautiful people who have the most fun and the most money matter. The world on your cell phone echoes that value system. It’s hard to resist those pulls when you’re always on your phone.
3. Our phones can draw us into unproductive arguments.
This is very easy, particularly on social media. We read something that offends us, and every bone in our body wants to respond in anger. But we can’t. Why?
Paul tells us why in Titus 3:9: “Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees . . . things are useless and a waste of time” (NLT).
Some people live to hook you. They are always looking for a fight. Don’t fall for the bait.
4. Our phones can tempt us to compete and show off.
We want everyone to know we have it all together—our families run smoothly, our churches are growing, and our spiritual lives never hit roadblocks. Every pastor knows that’s not true. But that’s what we see when we open Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media apps. People always want to put their best foot forward.
Do you know who also did that? The Pharisees. It’s the sin that Jesus hated the most in them. He called them hypocrites when he saw it in them.
Jesus said, “Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1 NLT). When you post a photo of yourself doing something godly so others can fawn over it, you’ve already gotten your reward.
5. Our phones can get us addicted to the approval of others.
That’s what makes social media so addictive. Every time we post something, we keep checking back to see if people like what we’ve shared. It’s a big reason we check our phones so often.
Paul didn’t have a smartphone, but he understood the temptation and committed to live counter-culturally in this respect. In Galatians 1:10 he wrote, “I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ” (CEV).
You can’t be a servant of Christ and try to please others. It’s impossible.
6. Our phones can get us distracted from what’s most important.
When you’re willing to spend 11 years of your life on your smartphone and pick it up at all times of the day, no matter what you’re doing, it has more value than anything else in your life. Your phone then has become your god.
At that point, you don’t own the phone; the phone owns you.
Remember the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10? Martha is busy doing important work—preparing a meal and being a good hostess. But Jesus praises Mary for doing something even more important—spending time with him.
If you have an opportunity to scan your social media feed on your phone, you have time to spend at the feet of Jesus.
Your phone can be a powerful tool for the glory of God (which I’ll write about next week), but it can also be a dangerous saboteur of a purpose driven life.
The choice is really yours.