When I was a child, the first piece of electronic technology I owned was “Karate King,” a 1988-released handheld game with a LCD display. The player had just four moves to choose from: punch, kick, jump and sway. Although the plot of the game was quite monotonous (press the buttons faster than the Kung-Fu Master can kick you), the game mesmerized me.
Since Karate King of the late 1980s, the world of technology has seen the contributions of Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Jobs of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook , Jack Dorsey of Twitter, and Larry Page of Google—to provide just a tiny sampling. Their inventions and products allow us to listen to music, keep in touch with friends, broadcast our thoughts, and research just about anything. But with these devices in our hands and homes, we find ourselves in a jungle full of both profit and peril.
When God told Adam to subdue and rule over the earth (Genesis 1:28), Adam’s responsibility was clear: he was to extend God’s reign to other parts of creation. While the garden was perfectly good, Adam needed to exercise his powers of intellect and volition to order that primeval paradise for God’s glory. The technological jungle we inhabit is anything but a paradise. Yet, like Adam, we must seek to extend God’s reign even to our phones, tablets, laptops, televisions, and gaming devices. Unlike Adam’s task, ours is complicated by a godless world, a raging Devil, and that internal traitor we call our flesh. As subjects of King Jesus, how can we extend his reign to our use of technology?
Of course, no mere commitment can guarantee spiritual victory; only as we submit to the working of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives will we gain victory over our flesh (Galatians 5:16). But just like Psalm 119 shows us certain resolutions to keep God’s Word, here are eight important commitments that come to my mind.
1. I will make my technology serve God’s purposes for my life.
One of God’s stated objectives for the lives of believers is conformity to his Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Is my goal to become more like Jesus being advanced or hindered by the amount of time that I spend on social media? By the kinds of websites I visit?
2. I will disable, alter, or discontinue my use of certain technologies if they threaten my relationship with God (Matthew 5:29-30).
God’s objectives must control which devices I purchase and how I use them. Have I used my phone, tablet, or laptop in such a way that has caused me to drift from my devotion to God? Nothing, no matter how flashy, engaging or cool, is more important than my relationship with God.
3. I will not let my technology make me miss opportunities for spiritual or personal growth.
Do I avoid certain people or awkward situations by pulling out my phone? Do I let my phone or tablet distract me during a preaching service by checking social media or “researching” a topic, even if it’s related to the message? I refuse to let my phone or tablet become my “personal bubble.”
4. I will live in the real world, not a fantasy world.
Do I obsess over other people or their possessions on Instagram, Facebook, or blogs? Do I allow video or computer games to become an escape module from the frustrations and complexities of my life? I must determine to invest my thoughts, time and energies in the real people God has placed around me.
5. I will overestimate the power of my flesh and underestimate the power of my resolve, not vice versa.
Do I trick myself into thinking that I will go only so far, and no further? Do I argue with myself that my intentions in downloading a certain app or Googling a certain word are actually pure? Do I lie to myself that “I’m doing research” or “I need to know about this” when there is no redemptive reason to know anything about it? I must always be aware that there is within me a traitorous foe who becomes energized and powerful especially under tempting circumstances (Romans 7:18, 23).
6. I will never use unfiltered internet.
Is there any place I have access to unfiltered internet? This is a minefield I can never trust myself to tiptoe through.
7. I will seek help immediately if I begin to dabble in pornography.
There is no use to try to be macho about this. This is a commitment to make before you get caught. Pornography is a trap that cannot be broken from the inside and as soon as you’re trapped you’ll be embarrassed to ask for help.
8. I will use technology in such a way that, if the screen were to be projected for everyone in my family and church to see, I would not be ashamed.
Of course, God sees everything we do. Surely that realization alone should prevent us from viewing even questionable content. Yet it is helpful to consider how godly people would react to, for example, whose profiles we browse, which Netflix movies we stream, or even which news articles we read. If I would be ashamed for them to see it, would I not be ashamed for God to see it?
May Jesus reign over all—including our technology.