There’s a scene in John 13 that has always stuck out to me. Jesus gathered His disciples together for one last meal with them before he went to the cross. In this hour, the Savior of the world chose to do something extraordinary: He washed the feet of each of his disciples. In the moment when the disciples were expecting him to exalt himself, he took a towel and a basin full of water (two forms of technology!) and began to wipe the feet of sinners with his perfect hands.
He uses the devices of man to serve man. He chooses to wash instead of being washed. He chooses integrity. In many cases, I think we view integrity only in the light of repentance—choosing to be honest when you mess up. Integrity is certainly no less than that, but at the same time, it is infinitely more! If integrity only exists in the context of repentance, Jesus could not have demonstrated integrity, for he had no sin! Instead, Jesus models the greatest form of integrity, actively choosing the good of others over one’s own good.
Technology as a Means for Good
That’s a message I’ve needed to hear my whole life. So often, I have been caught up in this idea that my life is about me—my wants, my desires, my plans. However, time and time again, I am left hungry when I chase after my own well-being. It’s almost as if we were designed intentionally to give ourselves for the good of others. Where does tech fit into this? Well, in John 13, it looks like using technology’s potential to benefit the people around us. This makes sense with a towel and a basin, but what about with a cell phone, a camera, a web browser, etc.? How do we serve people well with technologies that are often designed to pull us in—to addict us? As Edward Tuft states in the famous documentary about the dangers of social media, The Social Dilemma, “There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.”
To use modern technology in a ministerial way often requires working against the grain of technology’s core design. Is it even possible to take an instrument designed to imprison someone and use it to help win their freedom? Jesus certainly thought so. Think of the cross—a brutal example of Roman torture technology that was meant not only to bind someone but to break them. In the realm of modern technology, this manifests in using technology in a way that is life-giving and that fights against addiction in all forms, whether that is to SNL skits on YouTube or pornographic material.
My Struggles With Technology
Before I go further into this, I want to share a bit of my own story to demonstrate how approaching technology from a different angle with the help of accountability and tools such as Covenant Eyes helped change the game for me.
For high me, social media was a trap. All I had to do to access content that would feed my lust was log on to Instagram and find suggestive images that fueled what Augustine called, “hell’s black river of lust.” In my Junior year of high school, I really began to struggle in this area. I would click on the easily accessible, candy-colored Instagram app, telling myself that I would just be checking my friends’ posts, but soon I would be finding images that would stimulate sexual arousal. I didn’t see fully what was happening then. I felt guilty after using Instagram in this way, but that didn’t stop me. I slowly became more and more addicted. This is where Covenant Eyes came in. By the grace of God, I began to talk to my parents about my struggles. They decided to put Covenant Eyes on my phone and laptop.
Instantly, I knew I had accountability that was real and effective. I knew that my parents had my back. I knew that the Lord wanted something different for me. My battle didn’t immediately end, but by the grace of God, the Lord guided me eventually to get rid of social media completely! The desires didn’t disappear in a moment, but suddenly, through the encouragement of my parents and the help of the accountability provided by Covenant Eyes, I began to see lust for what it was.
A couple of months after I stopped using social media, I found out someone close to me had been trapped in addiction to pornography for around a decade. It nearly tore his family apart as he confessed to his wife what he had been secretly involved in. Watching that happen in confluence with my own struggle branded something on me. It took the scales off my eyes in a certain sense. I understood lust for what it was—a desire we were never meant to have, a distortion of reality, and a lie from the pit of hell. From that point on, I felt a fire to not just avoid lust, but to kill it both in my heart and in the hearts of those around me. I just finished my sophomore year of college. I have experienced freedom by the grace of God since my senior year of high school! I don’t plan on ever returning to social media. I still have Covenant Eyes on my devices to provide accountability, and by the grace of the Lord, the more I dive into studying God’s design for sex, the more I am disgusted by pornography, and the more I want to help my brothers find freedom from it!
Using Technology to Glorify God
This year, I was able to start a small guys’ Bible study with some buddies where we discussed hard topics, including lust and God’s design for sex. Guys were openly discussing their struggles with one another; it was so encouraging! In this journey, I don’t avoid technology completely, though. I am currently typing this essay on my laptop! Tech is valuable when used as a tool, not as a fix. Using tech in such a way that it glorifies God and benefits others—this is using tech with integrity. This means, for me, avoiding some functions of technology completely, specifically entertainment tech. There are some video games, movies, songs, TV shows, etc. that I must simply avoid in order to honor my brothers and sisters and glorify the Lord.
On the other hand, there are forms I can use, such as Google Docs, Desiring God.com, and Covenant Eyes, which I not only make use of myself but also use to encourage others to follow God’s design for technology—a design that emphasizes our control over tech, not tech’s control over us. The Lord’s work in bringing victory over those lustful patterns in my life encourages me daily that He protects His kids! We can daily stand in joy and confidently say to the tech industry, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).