Taming the Tug of the Screen

by Arlene Pellicane

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. ” (Exodus 20:4-5a, NIV)

Right before we walked into church, my phone vibrated. I quickly looked at the text. It was someone with an invitation. Sitting in service, I kept thinking of an appropriate time to pull out my phone and text back.

Announcements … that seemed like the perfect time to send my text! But right when I reached for my phone, the announcer said, “Please silence your cell phones and put them away.”

I didn’t dare send the text anytime during service, but it did occupy my thoughts the whole time.

And there’s the technological rub. Our phones, screens, emails and social media accounts can always be with us. A constant and distracting presence. Instead of soaking in the presence of God, we often soak in new likes, tantalizing headlines, home décor ideas, and emails.

If we could only get a picture of who God really is, our phones would quickly lose their appeal.

Exodus 20:18 (NIV) says, “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance.” Moses approached this awesome God on behalf of the frightened Israelites, and God then spoke the Ten Commandments.

Today’s key verse was the second commandment, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4-5a).

Wait a minute, I thought jealousy was a bad thing?

Often it can be. But to God, it’s a glorious jealousy. When God says He’s “jealous,” it means when anyone attempts to substitute anything else for God (an idol), this is absolutely offensive to Him. He will defend His uniqueness (“I am the LORD” in Exodus 20:2) which means He alone is God. He will share that place with no one or no thing, including our phones.

If I saw a woman flirting with my husband, trying to take him on a date, you better believe I would be jealous, and rightly so! My husband belongs to me and no one else. In the same way, God is jealous for you. You belong to Him, and He is crazy about you.

Which brings us back to our phones. I wonder how many times God wanted to remind us of a Scripture or connect us with a person who needed ministry, but we were unavailable in that moment because we were checking email or playing on a device. In Exodus 20:23, God tells Moses to tell the Israelites, “Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold” (NIV).

Did you know elements like gold, copper and silver are used to wire phones?

I may not bow to a wooden statue as a substitute god, but I might spend hours distracted on a small metal gadget adorned with glass.

Let’s repent when we place phones, social media or screen entertainment on a pedestal higher than God. The second commandment banned all idolatrous images in Israel. God is jealous for His people. He is jealous for you.

Lord, You are the God who brought me out of bondage. Forgive me if I placed any other gods before You in my love and loyalty. I know You are a jealous God, and I give You my heart, mind and strength today. Help me use technology wisely for specific purposes, but not be too distracted or drawn away from Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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