‘Redeeming the time’
Speaking of the heart, there are temptations for it around today that weren’t around when I was a kid. Don’t get me wrong. My mother was a firm believer in the old adage, idle hands are the Devil’s workshop. She wasn’t a strict disciplinarian, nor did she believe in busy work. However, she did think that us kids needed to be purposeful in what we did, even if it was some kind of play or make-believe. When I was old enough to go out and play on the street with my friends or walk or bike over to their houses, she knew she could trust us to be active, use our imaginations, negotiate any rules for whatever game or activity we pursued, and come home when called. Sometimes she even provided materials for whatever props we felt we needed to make so we could play our games or act out our stories. This is not to say that I was a perfect child. Far from it. But on the whole I learned to get along with others, respect their ideas, and collaborate to make something enjoyable for all of us.
Things have changed. A lot. One thing in particular is around now that wasn’t when I was young. Hint: when I was a kid the phone was something that didn’t have a miniscreen and was wired to the wall! Yes, I’m talking about our devices and what they use, the Internet. Don’t get the idea that I am some kind of terror-stricken technophobe. I value the advancements that made that old wall phone obsolescent. From my perspective, we are living at a time that was only a science fiction writer’s fantasy when I was in my teens. The cell phone I use is right out of the old Dick Tracy comic strips or Robert Heinlein’s early stories. These phones and the Internet can and do make life easier.
However, phones, tablets, the Internet, and other devices can also make life harder. We have talked about what it is to be part of the body of Christ, the Church. Paul discussed the spiritual dangers to the body in his day. Our technology today has introduced a whole new set of spiritual pitfalls. They are the result of the misuse of the very technologies that were intended to augment what we learn and do. I call them techno-traps.
The first techno-trap is wasted time. One obvious example has been in the news off and on for a couple of years now. It has gotten so bad that many companies dependent on tech, and even the government, have taken steps to monitor their employees’ computer usage. The same is true for company issued cell phones. Game playing has made inroads into what is supposed to be productive time. Probably what most folks never think about when they do this kind of thing is that it is stealing. No, people aren’t stealing objects, whether petty or expensive. They are being paid to work but not doing it. Not only are they lying to their employer, they are also stealing time itself, taking money for effort they aren’t actually making. Paul was very blunt about such a situation when he told us, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Catch that phrase, “redeeming the time?” How can we say we are redeeming the time if what we are doing produces nothing except maybe a fleeting feeling of self-gratification? God is not against having some fun. Rest of that nature is good for the spirit. It lets us be more effective in what we do for Him and others. However, fun was never meant to be the be-all and end-all of our time, a distraction from Him and the others that, like Christ, we were meant to serve.
So, yes, go have some fun. God wants us to enjoy what He has given us. But never let fun, technological or otherwise, become a waste of time, one of the technotraps.
(Philip Severi, a former Bishop resident, previously wrote a weekly column for The Inyo Register. He contributes to this page from his home in Twain Harte.)