Technology Addiction

“Hey.” The man’s voice was slow, slurred. “Hey. Can you help me? I’m between a rock and a hard place.” He was an older gentleman, heavy-set, with rough face and hands that betrayed a life in conditions other than kind. A few minutes earlier, it had taken two people to raise him off the sidewalk and into a park bench. Now, after having caught his breath, he was trying to talk.

“Where are you going to stay tonight?” one of the men asked.

“Well, uh, I imagine, between a rock, and, and…” his voice trailed off. He was homeless, suffering from a mental condition and the addiction to alcohol that had landed him so helpless on the ground.

The second bystander was also homeless, and knew the older man better. His explanation of the situation was enlightening.

“Don’t judge him for the alcohol. When you don’t have friends, you get lonely. When you can’t buy anything to eat, you get hungry. When winter comes, you get cold. Now, when he drinks, he isn’t lonely. He isn’t hungry. He isn’t cold.

This made sense, at least at first. Alcohol was a solution to the man, a solution that numbed the pain. But the emptiness of its claim was soon made apparent. A full tray of warm baked chicken and a box of fresh strawberries was made available, and portions offered to the homeless men. Would it be enough? It was cold, the men were homeless and lonely.

“No, thank you. I don’t need any.” That was the older man. The other ate a strawberry and a small chicken leg, but slowly, and apparently out of politeness.

They were not ungrateful. They just weren’t hungry. They weren’t lonely. They weren’t cold. They had their drink, and they could keep themselves alive day by day.

The point here is not to make homeless people look bad or ungrateful, for both those men were kind, friendly, and thankful. Rather, it is to compare ourselves to that situation. The world we live in is spiritually like the world they lived in. It is lonely – a “waste howling wilderness.” The inhabitants are cold – “the love of many shall wax cold.” It is also a place of famine – “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”

Do we feel this loneliness? What about the cold? Do we hunger? If not, the same can be said about us as about those two men – we “follow strong drink.” And although they could certainly lay some small claim to being “ready to perish” and therefore justified in their action, God’s Word clearly says about us “Woe unto you that are full! For ye shall hunger.”

What is the “strong drink” that we follow? What is it that numbs us to the very real and pressing need for our souls? What robs us of the instinct to ask for “food convenient for me?”

This addicting and numbing influence varies from person to person, but for very many it can be said that the temptations of technology and misuse of modern media contribute strongly to our willful and addicting blindness. The many and varied attractive aspects of these “conveniences” have fooled us into accepting them wholeheartedly into our homes with no limit or restriction.

The problem has two aspects: the introduction of evil, and the removal of good. When these temptations are accepted into our homes, we think they are to our advantage. And, in many ways, technology has proven to be very beneficial. But we jump over the potential risks, because they are not so readily seen. We may consider that they have negatives, due to the many faithful warnings, but it is less often that we understand how quickly they replace the good. Just like alcohol numbed the homeless men, so we are caught up in something we consider “partially justifiable” and the true good is quietly displaced.

Do you seek the true good? Or, do you find yourself never having enough time? For many today, technology is silently filling the place that could have been used for the things that have eternal value.  Try to set aside your phone for an evening this week, and open the Bible. “For whoso findeth Me findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord.”

Protect Young Eyes: Dangerous Places for Children

Where Do Your Children Go Online?

One of the most active sites for advice on dealing with online safety is ProtectYoungEyes.com. On this site, you can find advice on apps, filters, and up to date information on the latest risks. One of the articles on the site deals with the physical location where children access the internet. Five locations are discussed as the most dangerous. Take a look and see if you can improve the safety of any one of these locations in your family:

Periodicals Available for Download

Recent editions of The Banner of Truth, Paul, and Insight Into have been added to the website for viewing and downloading.

You can access them here: Periodicals

They are listed in reverse order, with the newest periodicals on top.

Banner of Truth Article: Dealing with Online Temptations and Thoughts on Accountability

The NRC Synodical Modern Media Committee

-Published in The Banner of Truth, February 2019

Biblical Accountability

There is a need for man to ever be aware of his accountability to a higher power. One should always be mindful of this as Joseph expressed in Genesis 39:9, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Our first accountability is to God. Ultimately, the best accountability filter is to have a Spirit-wrought faith in exercise. Even David as king fell into sin when his faith was not in exercise. To this end, God was pleased to provide us with a Book of His revealed will. To promote a continuous awareness of this, Joshua was divinely exhorted to “meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein” (Joshua 1:8). We also read in Psalm 1:2 of the blessedness of the man whose “delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night.” This reference to “the law” includes the entire Bible. For example, Jesus said unto the Jews in John 10:34, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” This is written in Psalm 82:6, not in the books of Moses regarding the law.

There is a biblical structure of human accountability. For example, children are accountable to their parents and teachers, employees are accountable to their employers for the work they are hired to do, and citizens are accountable to civil authorities. We are also accountable to our families, friends, and communities because our sin also affects them. It especially affects our spouse when we sin in being unfaithful to them through the viewing of pornography. Regarding one’s personal life, an awareness of accountability must be maintained—thus the exhortations of Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2 referenced earlier. One should live in a manner that avoids the appearance of evil and minimizes temptation. “Abstain from all appearances of evil,” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Each adult should decide for himself if accountability to another person would be helpful; those with a particular weakness should seriously consider some type of interpersonal accountability. Also, parents may want to use account- ability to give oversight and guidance to their children.

We should promote continual reading of God’s Word, seeking the “one thing needful,” seeking always to be kept by the Lord from sin and uncleanness, and being mindful of “what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11b). As we can see from the above scriptural references, man must be reminded of these things. We must also be reminded of the evil of modern temptations. It is possible that a person might not see the evil and addicting nature of various sinful activities because these things have become commonplace and generally tolerated or accepted in society. Therefore, periodic warnings from the pulpit and those given in church publications are desirable and necessary.

Practical thoughts relating to online accountability

It is possible to use technology as a means for online accountability. There are many mobile device apps and accountability programs that can be used to provide reports to an accountability partner. Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • What are accountability programs? Accountability programs monitor online activity and provide reports of this activity to a chosen accountability partner or partners.
  • Why use accountability programs? Accountability programs, by themselves, will not prevent access to, or protect a person from accessing inappropriate content online. Their purpose is to help provide additional motivation to resist sinful inclinations in the moment of temptation. Social scientists have found a phenomenon called “online disinhibition effect.” This term refers to people saying and doing things online that they would not say or do in real life. In the past it was much more difficult to purchase sinful magazines or pictures, and it typically could only be done in a public place. Accountability programs similarly force the online equivalent of these sinful actions out into the open. God’s common grace can still give us a speaking conscience and a sense of shame should these sins become known to one’s accountability partner.
  • Like all Internet filters and accountability programs, a person intent on bypassing or disabling them can do so with some effort. The intent is to make this process difficult and cause a person to think twice about his decision to circumvent Internet filtering-accountability tools.
  • Accountability is a personal choice. Te person and his partner must be both willing and committed to the process. It may be useful for some but not feasible for others. It is only one means or tool among others that can be used to help us in fighting against sin.
  • In general, using accountability is not a long-term solution for guarding against access to inappropriate Internet content. It is probably not realistic to have an accountability partner review your activity for five or ten years in succession. “Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbor’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee” (Proverbs 25:17).
  • An accountability partner needs to:
    • Be willing to spend the time each week to actually look at accountability reports.
    • Have a strong enough relationship with you that he/she is willing to confront you on questionable content.
    • Be someone who can not only confront you when necessary but also encourage you.
    • Be willing to have face-to-face conversations periodically.
    • Have a clear understanding of what is expected of him/her (i.e. what content category/categories or issue(s) should be discussed with you).
    • Be someone with whom you are comfortable having view your online activities.
  • If you should fall into temptation and your accountability partner fails to confront you, do not use your accountability partner as a scapegoat and blame him. You are the one responsible for your actions.
  • Make sure you understand why you are motivated to use accountability; explain your reasons to your accountability partner.
  • Explain to your accountability partner how best to contact and challenge you, should that become necessary (e.g. a phone call, an email message, a conversation in person, etc.).
  • Do not expect or require your spouse to be an accountability partner; give him/her the choice. Having a spouse as an accountability partner may give a sense of openness and honesty in a marriage. Sometimes it is just too difficult for a spouse to review a weekly accountability report as it may cause a great amount of anxiety thinking about every temptation that his or her spouse might have faced that week. For many couples this can become an unhealthy strain on their marriage as a spouse may not want to be the sole person one’s marriage partner depends on for help.
  • If your spouse is acting as your accountability partner, it is recommended that you send your reports to at least one other person of your own gender.
  • If you are interested in accountability reporting software, Covenant Eyes and Qustodio are software applications that have been tested and are in use by members of the modern media committees formed in several of the Netherlands Reformed Congregations. These packages handle filtering as well as accountability and work well.

Conclusion

There are different means we can use to fight against temptations in the digital media environment that surrounds us today. Accountability, like many of the other tools used to restrict access to sinful Internet content, must be properly understood regarding its benefits and limitations. We must realize that implementing personal Internet accountability requires the blessing of the Lord to be effective and useful. As stated earlier, the best media filter is to truly feel our accountability to God and seek His grace so that we might be made obedient unto His will as it is revealed in the Scriptures.