Letter to Teens Unboxing Their First Smartphone
You just got your first smartphone! This is a major milestone in your life. That phone you are about to take out of the box is one of the most amazing devices ever created, and it is going to be your constant companion for the next couple of years. It is an incredible piece of technology that can be used in many different ways.
It can be used to do so many good things, but if you are not wary, it can also be used to do an awful lot of bad things. So, before you power it on for the first time, I think it would be wise to invest just a few minutes in thinking and planning.
God Has a Purpose for Your Phone
Technology is a gift from God. When we read the Bible, we find that at the beginning of time, God created two people, naked and alone in a little garden, and gave them a worldwide task: to spread out across this world and exercise dominion over it (Genesis 1:28). In order to do that, they would need to invent technologies.
If they were going to plant and harvest crops to feed their family, they would first need to invent a plow. If they were going to spread out across the earth to settle countries and build cities, they would need to invent bridges and boats. In that way, technology is good. Technology is a means through which we can carry out the very purpose for which God created us.
“You can use your smartphone in hundreds of ways that serve God’s purposes.”
Then, when Jesus was on this earth, he gave his people a new job description that is meant to go along with the first. He told us to take the gospel, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, into all the world (Matthew 28:18–20). And again, one of the ways we do so is through inventing and using technologies. No wonder, then, that Christians are always paying attention when a new technology shakes the world. Every technology is an opportunity.
When you understand the orders God has given you, you see that God has great purposes in mind for your technologies, and even your smartphone. That phone can be used to organize your life better so you can accomplish more of the things that matter most; it can be used to communicate with others so you can speak good news into their lives; it can be used to read the Bible and list your prayers; it can be used in hundreds of ways that serve the purposes God has given you. Thank God for your smartphone!
Satan Has a Purpose for Your Phone
Unfortunately, there is far more to the story. No sooner did God create man and give him this worldwide mission than man fell into sin. Adam and Eve determined they would disobey God, and when they did that, they brought sin into this world. Technology did not escape unscathed. It, too, exists in this fallen world. This reality means that every technology, including your new phone, can be used to do things that are evil. God has a purpose for your phone, but so does Satan.
Because this is a world caught up in a great cosmic battle between good and evil, every new technology enters into the fight. Every technology brings some benefits and some risks. For every good thing your phone can do, there are other evil things it can do.
“God has a purpose for your phone, but so does Satan.”
You will have the choice before you every day and every moment: will you use it for good or for evil? Will you use it to carry out the tasks God has given you, or will you use it to hinder those tasks? Will you use your phone to serve God or to serve Satan? Thank God for your smartphone, but plead with him for wisdom to use it well.
Your Heart Has a Purpose for Your Phone
What do you love more than you love God? In those times when you are not finding your joy and satisfaction in God, and in those times when sin seems so tempting, what is it that promises joy? What promises satisfaction? What is that thing you need so badly that you will even sin to get it?
For some people, it is money, and they are convinced that, unless they have lots of money, they can never be truly satisfied. They will even steal to get it. For some people, it is power, and they believe that the way to happiness is to accumulate power over others. They will trample or bully people to get it.
Whatever that thing is for you, the Bible calls it an idol. An idol is anything you raise up in place of God — something that, at least for a moment, takes first place in your heart. Whatever your idol is will prove a special kind of temptation for you when you use your phone.
If you idolize sexual pleasure, you will probably be tempted to use your phone to look at pornography. Did you know that more than half of all pornography is now viewed on mobile devices like yours? This means that many people like you bought a smartphone so they could text with their friends and take pictures of their vacation, but somehow they ended up using it to look at pornography. They used this great, God-given technology to do harm instead of good.
If you idolize popularity, if it is being admired and having lots of followers that makes you feel good about yourself, then you will be tempted to use your phone to pursue that idol. You may use the camera to take inappropriate photographs of yourself in Instagram, or you may use the Facebook app to say harsh words about other people. That phone that can be used to do so much good and to bring so much encouragement will now be used to cause harm.
“Where your heart is, there your technology will be also. The way you use your technology reveals your heart.”
There are not many people who buy a phone intending to use it to harm others or to look at pornography. But where your heart is, there your technology will be also. The way you use your technology reveals your heart. It shows whether your heart is oriented toward God and toward finding true joy and satisfaction in him, or whether you are attempting to find counterfeit joy and satisfaction in the things he forbids. At any moment, your heart has a purpose for your phone. Yes, thank God for your smartphone, plead with him for wisdom to use it well, and guard your heart.
Use It to the Glory of God
And now it is time to take that phone out of the box and to turn it on for the first time. As you hold it in your hand, why don’t you take a moment to pray? Ask God to help you to use that phone well. Commit before him right now that, to the best of your abilities, you will only ever use it to serve his purposes. Recruit a believing friend or two for accountability and check in regularly.
Then go and glorify him with and through it.