Summer has begun. For many of us, that means more unstructured minutes in our day and more temptation to spend time on screens. Each platform on our devices is luring us to sign on, and algorithms are configured to make sure we stay on.
How are we going to spend our time?
I have a heart of compassion about the battle with screen time. After all, we need to stay in touch with people. We need to use our social media to make room for God-honoring ministries and organizations doing good in the world. We need to know what is going on in the world. We need to respond to emails. We need to be good employees and students.
Finding the line.
My paraphrase for the definition of media literacy is to consume media in such a way that we experience the maximum benefit with minimal harm. The line is drawn differently for each of us, but unless we are intentional about determining one, easy access to our devices and persuasive algorithms will win and lead us to trash.
The Hebrew word for “trash” in this verse is from the root word of “evil” and is translated most frequently as “folly” (silliness or foolishness). James 4:17 says, If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
Trash can mean three things. First, the content we are viewing can be trash because it introduces addictive content, like porn. Second, our content viewing can have no purpose whatsoever. Did you ever take a bunch of selfies and edit them, then wonder where the time went and wonder what you have to show for it? How about watching YouTube videos or movies or researching a celebrity? Third, we can turn a necessary and productive thing into trash by spending too much time on it. For me, that includes emails. I can get started but then find myself answering too many. There goes the time while my child is still waiting for me after I said, “Just a minute.” Every time you and I are engaged online, we can cross the line between being wise and unwise or between being productive and trashing a part of our day.
I am guilty of checking Instagram before reading my bible and prayer. On such days I have sipped coffee while scrolling, then looked at the clock to discover the best part of the day had vanished forever. I find myself not connected to the Vine, and my quick prayers are not a substitute for honest time with God.
I am guilty of spending too much time on news sites because I teach a course that requires me to know what is going on in the world. I could justify being online all day for my job.
I am guilty of traveling down rabbit trails about lives of people I don’t even know, giving their lives more attention than my own. Hours spent, and I know I am not alone.
What would our phones tell the world if they could?
Our phones track usage and provide handy charts to report how we are spending our screen time. Categories include: Entertainment, Information and Reading, Social, Productivity and Finance, Education and Shopping. What if bible reading was included in the Information and Reading category? What about the complete picture of our music and podcast choices? Would it be clear we love Jesus? For some weeks I would be embarrassed to show you my “consumption” report. Would you be embarrassed to let me see some of yours? Sure, there is forgiveness, grace and repentance readily available for what each of us has already done, but what about going forward? Are there changes to be made?
Are we really hungry for knowledge?
Jesus answered, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst. (John 6:35)
JESUS is our bread. Do we really want Him more than food? I implore you to answer honestly. Each of us has probably prayed prayers while struggling to focus because our phone was right beside us and notifications were coming in. I can’t be the only one who has scanned her bible reading so she could check her emails or finish a movie from last night. Reading well means slowly digesting what I am reading while praying God’s Word into my heart and pondering the message. I am getting better at confessing to God that short-changing prayer and reading does not count as quality time, just like such things would not count as quality time with a friend.
This past week I was hungry. This past week screens were in their proper place. But last week’s success will not carry over into this coming week. You and I must set our minds every day so screens will not run away with us this summer. Let’s feast on knowledge, not trash!
Picture Explanation: My summer always starts with celebrating him. He is now 18 and a wonderful human being.
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