The Digital Age and the Temptation of the Apple: A Sermon Review
February 5, 2015 0 comments
This past Sunday, Jesse Phillips wrapped up our series “Unplugged: Finding Peace in a Digital Age.” His sermon was entitled “Vocation in a Digital Age.” (Eds. Note: you can listen to the entire sermon here.) As Jesse pointed out, technology both enhances our vocation and provides reasons for caution as it relates to our vocation. His sermon dealt with both the benefits and potential pitfalls of the digital age.
Our vocations are not just our jobs – they encompass a variety of estates (church, state, household, workplace), and there’s a distinct danger in over-compartmentalizing our lives. One benefit of the digital age and the increase in technological efficiency and availability is the possibility of reducing the compartmentalization of our lives. For instance, technology can help a father cut back on travel time related to his job and thus have more time to parent his children. Or technology can help a mother have the ability to take a vacation while still being able to connect to her job or responsibilities back in her hometown, whereas before she would have been forced to forego the vacation altogether. Our world is increasingly interconnected, and that interconnectedness allows us to have a continuity of vision, and in doing so we are reflecting the character of a God who is both omnipresent and singularly focused.
We also have a singular focus; whether we are preaching a message, serving at a food bank, working in an office, parenting our children or fill-in-the-blank, our singular focus to work at everything we do “with all our hearts, as if working for the Lord.” Technology can be beneficial in helping us achieve a singular focus despite our variety of vocation.
The digital age also is a web of temptation for those who do not exercise self-control. That increasing interconnectedness allows us to continue to focus on our work when we should be working on our relationships, or vice versa. The irony of interconnectedness is that it often inhibits our ability to connect at all. Sometimes we just need to be wherever we are, and the digital age has thus placed a premium on the spiritual discipline of self-control.
Another potential pitfall is self-glorification. Our calling in pursuing vocation, in whatever arena that entails, is to be a blessing to those around us by positioning ourselves in advantageous places in our communities and workplaces. Technology can pervert that calling by tempting us to create our own personal temples, where we invite people to gather around and worship at the altar of Me. Technology can help us reach more people; we can use that to bless, edify and encourage the people that we can reach, but we can also use that to fool ourselves into thinking that those people exist to hear what we have to say merely because we are the ones talking. We use the digital age not as a tool to reach more and more people with a powerful message, but as a tool to reach more and more people with ourselves. As Dave Harvey said, God does not condemn glory-seeking, and even widespread glory-seeking. In fact, He encourages it and rewards it with eternal life. But it’s conditioned on whose glory we are seeking. As Jesse said, the advancement of technology presents glory-seekers with a choice: whether to be perpetually drawn into deeper levels of worship of God and to use our gifts to extol the ones in whose image we have been made, or to be drawn into the mire of self-exaltation. “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”
Another potential pitfall of the digital age is that we are presented with the temptation to laziness and boredom. Constant access to things that interest us provides the opportunity to constantly do what we want to do, rather than what we ought to do. Work can become drudgery when you are never more than a click away from play. The digital age can inhibit our work ethic by providing the constant possibility of stimulating entertainment and thereby robbing us of the satisfaction of doing hard work. Drudgery and bare-minimums have nothing to do with God’s work, and they shouldn’t have anything to do with ours either. If we find ourselves bored with work, or school, or anything we are supposed to be doing, perhaps we should consider the possibility that our phones or iPads or social media are robbing us of the potential to reflect God’s glory and creative beauty in what we do.
People who have been commissioned to make disciples of all the nations should never be bored or disinterested in their work. We should be glory junkies, seeking to make the glory of Christ known in the entire world and in every sphere of our lives by working heartily in all that we do.
So let’s commit to having a couple of convictions related to the digital age. First, let’s have a conviction to be rooted in Scripture in our use of technology. Just because we can take our work home does not mean that we should. Sometimes we are tempted to do what is possible without considering what is right. Everything is permissible, after all, but not everything is beneficial. Just because we can do something does not necessarily mean that we ought to do it. Second, let’s have a conviction to not keep the bathwater just because we know we have to save the baby. Surely there’s a way to get rid of the bathwater without throwing out the baby. Let’s commit to actually wrestling and challenging ourselves as to what we should get rid of in order to be able to abide in Christ. Just because technology isn’t evil does not mean we should use it all the time. Third, and finally, let’s have a conviction to use the tools at our disposal in a way that glorifies God. We have so many things at our disposal, and we have constant choices as to how we are going to use them.
At the end of the day, nothing is new under the sun. Let’s commit, then, to use the digital age and the technology available to us to seek after the glory of God, and avoid the temptation to use new technology as the means of biting a very old apple.
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