Last year I had an encounter with Scripture that got me thinking about my habits in a whole new way. A reply given by Jesus to the Pharisees regarding the Sabbath invited me to revise my attitude toward the various activities that occupy my energy every day. Particularly towards social media. Not just the amount of time spent there, but more specifically the position of my heart when I use my social-media accounts.
In Mark 2, the Pharisees were appalled to see Jesus and His disciples collect food from a field. The Pharisees saw this as a violation of the commandment to refrain from work on the Sabbath. The reply Jesus gave stopped me in my tracks: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, ESV).
Two important thoughts looped through my thinking over the next few days. First, the notion that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the other way around. This highlights the truth that there are things that were made for me; i.e. they serve a purpose in my life.The second, is that the passage offered a picture of what it looks like to live for something that in reality had been designed for us. It looked like serving something pointlessly for the sake of building oneself up.
God designed things for me; not the other way around. I was made for God; every other thing is there for me to use in a way that honors Him.
We Serve It or It Serves Us
The Sabbath helped man position his heart for worship. This mandated day of rest served him by bringing his mind and heart closer to God. It encouraged him to rest and trust the Lord rather than trusting his own efforts because on that day there would rest instead of toil. It renewed him by restoring his energy and slowing down his pace enough for respite.
The Pharisees’ empty obedience turned God’s commandment to rest into a checklist of rules to follow. It was a far cry from its original intended purpose. With this attitude, they served an empty ritual that afforded them no rest and offered them no intimacy with their Creator. They were serving the ritual rather than allowing the ritual to serve them.
As I thought about how the Sabbath was created to serve us, I began to consider my relationship with social media. Who is serving who? Is social media serving me, or am I serving it? The digital age gives us tools that make us feel connected and in the know. Email, video, and the various forms of social media present what feels like endless possibilities to connect. Paradoxically these same tools can challenge our attention, time management, and emotional comfort.
We know, right away it seems, what is happening around us. We learn our friend gave birth to twins a few hours ago. We see our cousin’s new house and the color she’s choosing for the walls. We like, comment, and learn what others like and comment about the things we are engaging with. Both our capacity for connectivity and our need for affirmation are heightened by what social media makes possible.
It can make us feel seen and relevant, or invisible and unimportant. And these cycles keep us coming back for more. Because when we are connected, we want to perpetuate that feeling of connectedness. When we are affirmed and feel seen, we seek to have that again. When we don’t feel it, we go looking for it. Either way, many of us invest considerable time and energy in social media because it supplies something we want. And in the process, we are left feeling charged or drained. What determines either resulting state? This is where the words of Jesus resonate eye-opening Truth.
I realized that much of how I was handling social-media was essentially me serving it. What I serve owns me. And my misuse of social-media owned my time and determined my mood. I went to social-media for what only God can supply. We want to feel relevant. We want to be affirmed. We want to be seen and be heard. We want to be praised. These are all natural things to want. But if use our digital time to feed these needs, rather than our Creator, then we are letting it use us. We attempt to fill up the empty places in our lives, one square, status update, or tweet at a time.
Like most things at our disposal, social-media is neither evil nor holy. We can make it a tool to use for a good purpose as much as a liability to our spiritual and emotional health.
Here are three practical ways to help us use social media with discernment and wisdom, and prevent it from becoming a distraction that consumes our time. To that end, I want us to see social media as a tool to steward for the glory of God in Christ who alone brings genuine satisfaction our souls crave.
Treating It like a Tool: 3 Practices
A tool implies there is a function to fulfill in a job that needs doing. Scripture informs me that I was made for God. To know, enjoy, and serve Him (Deuteronomy 11:13; 1 Samuel 12:24; Psalm 119:10; John 12:26; 1 Corinthians 15:58) . That is who I was made for. What use I give them can mark the difference between life-giving and life-draining. Because I can end up looking in it for what only God whom I was made for can give me.
Over the past year I’ve practiced fasting from social-media one day a week. I also came up with a list to help me take inventory to gauge my heart’s emotions and expectations, which I revisit periodically to keep my heart in check. And, more recently I’ve also stopped and prayed for others. Let me unpack these: