There are a lot of folks online, and it has grown almost exponentially since the last part of the 20th century. The number of cell phone and internet users has grown from only a fraction of one percent of the world’s population to over fifty percent in just thirty years. In 1990, the world had 12.5 million cell phone users (0.25% of the world’s population) and 2.8 million Internet users (0.05% of the world’s population). In 2020, there were 4.78 billion cell phone users (62%) and 4.54 billion Internet users (59%).
In some ways, it’s still a brave new world. And one of the problems of ever-evolving technology involves the morality of using it. One person uses the internet for research, another uses it to pull scams on unsuspecting people. One person uses social media to inform and encourage, another uses it to tear down and bully others. One person uses it to share cat videos, another uses it to share pornography.
Although the Bible doesn’t mention anything about cell phones, computers, or the Internet, it has plenty to say who those things should be used. It starts with being wise.
According to the Bible, the wise person recognizes God and follows his will (Proverbs 1:7). But wisdom also includes elements that help us navigate the digital world. Jesus includes some of these things in his teachings, especially when he refers to wisdom in his parables. He mentions the importance of wisdom when he says Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). Jesus uses the same word wisdom (Greek phronimos) elsewhere, which gives us a fuller sense of what he means:
- Wise builder (Matthew 7:24). The builder has foresight, takes proper precautions, and has a plan in place before beginning his activities.
- Wise servant (Matthew 24:45) – The servant follows the master’s instructions to the letter and does what is appropriate.
- Wise virgins (Matthew 25:2) – The wise virgins have foresight and understand the importance of preparedness (the point of the parable is to be ready).
- Shrewd manager (Luke 16:8) – Here is someone who actually has some cunning, who acts with anticipation and prudence (care and thought for the future).
Clearly, all of these qualities will serve us well when navigating the digital world. As for some examples of this wisdom in action, the wise internet user:
- Turns his screen toward the door so that he has some measure of accountability, and will not fall into the temptation of clicking on inappropriate material that might pop up on screen.
- Reads and re-reads posts to minimize the possibility that the tone of what she says will be misunderstood as angry or offensive.
- Speaks carefully so that his speech is seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6), especially when tempted to be rude or snarky while sitting behind the safety of a computer screen.
- Does not post personal information or include photos with such information that would benefit thieves bent on stealing other peoples’ identities.
- Practices humility and authenticity online just as she would do in public.
- Understands that God observes all things, including what we do in private (Proverbs 15:3; Hebrews 4:13).
The Internet is a huge place filled with many things both good and bad. But by using prudence, foresight, and biblical understanding we can live out our digital lives with the same commitment that will glorify God, honor Christ, and encourage other believers.