Ask anyone what a big time-waster for them is, and they will probably say Facebook. Maybe, though, if you asked someone a little younger, they would tell you that video games are their time-wasters. Another big one that covers most of the American population is TV. Not only the television, but its “cousins:” Netflix, Hulu, and other like services. Of course, time-wasters may be a harsh word for these things. Am I saying they are evil? Not at all. I love watching shows on Netflix, I like playing the video-game “Minecraft,” and I will likely get on Facebook at some point in the future. But for many people (including me) these things can become idols, and the Scriptures make it clear that having idols is against God (Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 4:24, 1 John 5:21) And what do we use to reach these idols? Our iPhones, iPods, and other smart devices. Again, these devices are not evil, and surfing Facebook isn’t always a waste of time. But don’t we waste a lot of time on these things?
Most of us can agree that we do spend a good bit of time on our devices. Whether we scroll through our Facebook timelines, punch the buttons to a video game, or binge watch episodes of our favorite mystery show, we spend a lot of time on these things. And there are two things about this that Christians need to realize.
#1: One-hundred years ago, no one spent any time on these things.
#2: If we spend too much time focusing and meditating on these things, they might be idols that take the place of God in our lives.
So, based on the first statement, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that we don’t really need these things in our lives. Are they nice to have? Yes. Should we hyper-focus on them? No. Are they gifts from God? Totally (James 1:17). But, based on the second statement, we definitely shouldn’t worship them.
The way that I think of worship is this:
Loving something or someone so much that you meditate on it/them, think about it/them at all hours of the day, and constantly wish you could spend more time on it (or with it, or with them.)
That is what should happen with God. Not with the false gods of TV, Facebook, and video games. We should not love them so much that we begin to neglect our family, our job, or especially our God. But it’s not just about worshiping God because He wants us to, it’s about getting into our proper place. We are not to be in authority or in a place of receiving glory. God is. Our place is a worshiper, and God’s place is the only one worthy of worship. When we put ourselves in our place, we have joy. Real joy. The kind that doesn’t depend on our circumstances. And worshiping the false gods of technology will not get us that joy (Psalm 96:5).
Why TV isn’t a good god
TV won’t keep you happy, it won’t help you with your life, and, in many cases, it will bring you down. TV is nice as a “now-and-then” thing, but if you start to worship it, it will just make your life worse. Stop trying to find joy in watching TV (or Netflix).
Why Facebook isn’t a good god
With every “friend” or “like,” Facebook will give you a false sense of happiness that doesn’t last (that is, unless you check your news feed again.) Facebook is awesome when used to connect people, but it can’t substitute for real in-person connections and it will drain your time. If you’re not on Facebook like me, think about it for a while before you join. If you are on Facebook, consider leaving it. If your first reaction to that idea is to jump back and scream “No!!!!!,” then consider it a little more. I’m not really saying you should get off Facebook. But most people spend more time on it than they themselves know is best. So give yourself some limits. Reclaim the time (for some people, a whole hour) that was all yours 20 years ago, or however many years ago you joined Facebook.
Why video games aren’t a good god
Video games will give you a false sense that you’ve completed something, that you are a hero, and that you’ve done something worth doing. When, in fact, you’ve only completed something in the virtual world, you didn’t save or even help anyone in real life, and video games don’t really help you in the real world. Like I said, I used to love Minecraft, and recently, I decided to play it again. But I refuse to worship and/or spend hours of time playing a game that doesn’t help me in the real world.
I hope I’ve convinced you that worshipping TV, Facebook, or video games is empty. Here are some ways you can practice putting God back on the little throne in your heart, and taking the idols off of it.
- Go for a day or a week without using technology. I wrote about how you can do this in a post on fasting, you can click here to see that.
- Stop playing some video games and stop watching some shows. If you can tell that something is not only a time-waster, but also worthless, then give it up.
- Get yourself off the drug of “likes” by posting less, or not checking your device as much. The world doesn’t need to hear every detail of your life.
- Turn off notifications for Facebook on your iPhone by going to Settings>Notifications>Facebook and switching off “allow notifications.”
- De-activate Netflix every Summer. You’ll spend more time in Creation and less money.
- Limit yourself to a certain amount of time watching TV or looking through Facebook.
- Fill your evening hours with things like family devotions, reading Christian books, and being outside to cultivate a worshipful attitude toward God instead of technology.
- Focus on people instead of devices. If people are around, put your smartphone in your pocket (or maybe even on Airplane Mode).
- Keep technology off for half of the day. From one hour in the evening to that hour in the morning (like 8pm-8am), keep everything off.
- If you can exercise, have fun, or read a book without using devices, then do so!
- Worship God in your prayer times regularly. I wrote about this spiritual discipline here.
There’s Only One Idol Here
I know, I know, I wrote the entire post talking about how TV, Facebook, and video games are idols. But there’s only one idol here, and that’s you. When we worship these things, we’re really worshiping ourselves and our own pleasure. So the biggest problem is yourself. Get off the throne.
I’m going to leave you with a very popular word from Scripture about this. Meditate on it.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5, English Standard Version, emphasis added)
I hope these suggestions are a help and encouragement to you. I think we all need to practice putting our iDols down.
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