“Text” is a Powerful Verb (part 1) September 25 2015

While recently listening to an LA radio show, I heard a young caller describe her recent skiing accident.  She explained how she skied into a “SLOW DOWN” sign and broke her thumb. The host quipped that this injury would drastically set back her ability to text.

Aside from the irony of the accident, I was struck by how these little pieces of technology have become such a large part of our lives. I have to admit: I too am very dependent on my smartphone. From waking up in the morning, to coordinating carpool rides, to making sure I am responsive to my family, friends, and my employer – I rely on my smartphone throughout the day. In the span of about 8 years, our society has become incredibly attached to these little technological marvels.

While providing great benefits, technology can also be a pitfall, because it is basically an extension of our character.  Let's look at an example. When we are texting, e-mailing, tweeting, or calling, the smartphone is another outlet for the tongue.   The Apostle James did not foresee our technological wonderland, but he writes in Chapter 3 of his letter something that is still relevant today: the tongue “sets on fire the course of our life” (v. 6) and “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God (v. 9).”  With that simple statement, James outlines both the opportunity and pitfalls of the social network. The smartphone, if we are not careful, can allow our tongues to become “unleashed.” And with its convenience, technology can allow an unchecked tongue to be unchecked even more quickly and broadly than ever.

So what does this have to do with selflessness?  Quite a lot, actually.
Ephesians 4:22-24 states the overall principle that we are to put off the old manner of life and put on the new self.  The subsequent verses in Chapter 4 give examples of how to apply that principle in real life.  A specific example about speech is given in verse 29.  We are to put off unwholesome words and to put on speech that builds up others. The speech that results from our “new man” goes against our selfish nature because it focuses on demonstrating love to others.

Here are some things the Bible says about how to be selfless in the words we use. Translating this to our smartphones, we might think about the following questions before we hit “send.”
  •  Will my text/email edify others and give grace to the hearer or does it contain words that could be viewed by others to be unwholesome? (Eph 4:29).  Remember that “hearers” may include others to whom the text/email is forwarded at a later time.  
  •  Will my text/email be seen as gossip or quarrelsome? (Proverbs 20:19, 26:20, II Timothy 2:23-24)
  •  Will my text/email be seasoned with salt, giving grace? (Colossians 4:6)
  •  Will my text/email be speaking the truth IN LOVE (Ephesians 4:15)

Our smartphones, whether they be used for casual texting or posting on social media, are not exempt from biblical principles on speech. We can’t pretend that electronic speech doesn’t count just because iPhones and Facebook were not mentioned in the Bible.  We have tremendous opportunity to use technology as an extension of the literal tongue, to glorify God and to edify others.

For further study, Lesson 13 in the BCF Self-Confrontation manual has a whole section on Biblical Communication.

We’ll have more on this in the next post. If you have questions or comments about this or any blog post, please send them to us at blog@bcfministries.org.

Steven Smith