When we type with our thumbs, they are an extension of our mouths, and as Scripture says, our mouths are an extension of our hearts. (Matt. 12:34)
Consequently, your thumbs represent who you are. So by observing what you post online and what you text to others, who would people say you are? Are you wise or are you what the Bible calls “a fool”? (Prov. 29:11)
Regardless of how you may answer, let me offer six ways to help you from being or becoming a digital fool…
1. Think Biblically. Branches cut off from the trunks of trees are called sticks. Sticks are lifeless and can produce no fruit whatsoever. So, apart from staying connected to the life-giving power of God’s Word, you will become a spiritual stick.
Short ten-to-fifteen minute quiet times each day aren’t going to cut it, especially in our current culture. We need to be people of the Bible. We need to read it, learn it, study it, memorize it, and breathe it. Without God’s Word, we’re doomed…so if you currently find yourself to be biblically illiterate, it’s time to change and learn how to read.
You can literally start today, knowing with confidence that God welcomes you to the Scriptures with open arms, ready to transform your mind and heart, consequently transforming the way you use your thumbs.
2. Live Graciously. When we live and speak graciously on our phones, we believe the best in others despite the fact that what we see online or in text chains might be fairly damning evidence against the people who post or text.
When I read stuff online, I like to try as hard as I can to believe the best in others because I’d want them to believe the best in me. Everyone has a bad day and types something without thinking, so why don’t we be gracious and give others the benefit of the doubt when we see their words?
Being gracious costs you very little, yet goes such a long way with others who don’t ever really get extended grace online in our hostile, cancel-prone modern environment.
3. Know There’s Tremendous Power in What We Post Online. Now more than ever, online presence equals real-world significance. All of us are being shaped by the power of other people’s thumbs whether we recognize it or not.
To assume that the stuff we type on our phones is benign or relatively harmless and non-influential is naïve and dangerous. We need to know the kind of nuclear-bomb-type power we have in our pockets, because with great power comes great responsibility.
Yes, we’re all Spider-man now.
4. Don’t Normalize What God Would Call Abnormal. Jesus creates a standard for us as his followers when he says in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love is the standard here but if we’re honest, love really doesn’t feel natural for most of us, right? We need to (and I’m stealing this from my friend and mentor Paul Tripp in his book Reactivity), “Cry out for God’s rescuing and transforming grace to help us love others the way Christ has called us to love.”
One of the most life-changing things I have learned in my friendship with Paul Tripp is that I need to be rescued from me, not necessarily all the people who seem to need rescuing more than me out there in the world…and that includes everyone in cyberspace or on the other side of my phone.
Consequently, I shouldn’t normalize in my life what God would call abnormal. Sure everyone online seems to behave in a reactive kind of way, but God calls me to live differently through my phone.
This means I don’t normalize emotionally driven responses or angry tirades in my texts and online postings. I want to be known for being ready to listen, slow to speak, and not given to quick, angry reactions (James 1:19-20).
Additionally, I don’t want to normalize disrespectfulness and tribalism in my life online. It’s always easier to react or overreact to a group that you’re not a part of or disagree with. I’ve never seen anyone hold up a protest sign that says, I am the problem, because it’s simply easier to snarl at “the other” as opposed to myself.
Paul Tripp says, “Tribalism produces endless war and leaves lots of casualties but never produces the community that is essential if we are ever going to grow to be what God intended us to be and together live as he created us to live.”
This begs the question, “Am I more committed to digital war than I am to community?”
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
We need to be purposeful in allowing the gospel to get into the roots of our lives and change us so that we might become the kind of people Ephesians 4 is talking about here.
Can you imagine what your digital life would be like if Satan were actually afraid of you when you used your phone differently than everybody else? If you allow the gospel to permeate to the roots of your heart, you’ll be a serious threat to the Evil One.
Ask God to make you humbly dangerous for him. That’s probably one of the most godly prayers you could ever pray. You have a powerful tool in your pocket all day, every day to make you a very dangerous enemy to Satan.
5. Trust the Power of the Holy Spirit to Live the Christian Life For You. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to live in such a way that rejects who we were in our former selves before knowing Christ. We have the ability to see how to use our phones as a means of growth and development, but we need to live in such a way as if the power of God can actually change us from the inside out.
Do you ever think to yourself, “I can’t change. I just know that I’ll never be able to live differently than I do right now. I’m completely stuck in a cycle, and I’ll never be able to get out. I simply can’t change”?
That’s a lie! You have the power to change if you’re willing to tap into it.
You have the power to be humbly dangerous for Him. You have the power to lead an online community as an example of someone who actually believes Scripture is true and worthy of following.
You have the power to break your bad habits, toxic speech posts, out-of-control angry responses online, disrespectful responses in the comment section, one-sided tribalism on Instagram stories, screen-shotting what you think is someone’s stupid post and then texting it to your friends while making a mockery of that person to make you feel superior. By the power of the Holy Spirit, you can change.
The Christian life is impossible, but the power of God’s Spirit makes it possible. You can do life differently.
It doesn’t have to be digital “business as usual” if you ask God to work in and through you by the power of the Holy Spirit.
6. Utilize Your Phone for the Gospel. Recognize that social media and texting are tools and you can use them for good—the ultimate good.
You can use a screwdriver to help repair a car, but you can also use it to stab someone in the neck. You can use a hammer to build a house, or you can use it to break a window and rob a store. In general (although algorithms push in specific ways), it’s mostly in how you use it.
So the question is, “How are you using it?”
I have a friend who shares the gospel in three videos per day (every day) on TikTok and Instagram. His videos have been seen by hundreds of thousands of people, and thousands of people have indicated decisions for Christ. It’s amazing!
My friend has decided to use his phone as a mission field.
What if we, like my friend, stopped demonizing digital communication and started invading that space with the gospel?
I know the temptation is to constantly run away from the wicked phone apps (and of course we need to be wise and proactively take precautions against the dangers of what can cause us and others to stumble and sin), but what if we thought of Tik Tok and Instagram as mission fields instead of places to always avoid?
Jesus said in John 4:35, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” And then said in Matt. 9:37-38, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Are we willing to not only pray, but also be the tangible answer to that prayer for more laborers?
You can be a worker in his harvest from your favorite spot on the couch.
You can be a laborer from your bedroom each night before you go to sleep.
…from the dentist office when you’re waiting to get your teeth cleaned.
…from your free period at a desk in school.
…from the break room in your office.
…and yes, even from time spent in the bathroom (it’s gross, but most people do it).
You can be a missionary from anywhere you pull out your phone.
So why don’t we help fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) by using our phones instead of letting our phones constantly use us?