My Smartphone Holds the World
by Kris Coffin Stevenson | 15 December 2020 |
Just before the world transitioned from flip phones to smartphones, I went to an educational seminar on technology and the future. The presenter held up a phone and explained how it would soon be connected to the Internet. “What is your role as a teacher,” he questioned us, “when your students’ smartphones hold the world of knowledge?”
As a teacher in an Adventist academy, my job was to educate students for their future lives and careers and teach them about God. But most of my time and energy was sucked into the educational process. I was trapped in the tyranny of the required; lesson plans, curriculum, the high-stakes Ohio graduation test. We did a lot of good things, but training our students to critically sort vast amounts of information using a Godly template didn’t take precedence over the urgency of teaching to the test. We didn’t make it our highest priority to teach how to depend solely on Jesus, judge character, sieve out false ideas, make good choices, and live to serve others. Our most contentious faculty meeting dealt with what color fingernail polish we would allow the girls to wear.
To all of my students scattered here and there, I apologize for not making it a priority to teach you how to think critically and especially for not emphasizing how to hear God’s voice and go on God’s errands. As I see your lives unfold on Facebook, I realize my attempts to direct your eyes to Jesus didn’t go far enough. Having morning worship or teaching a fun critical thinking exercise isn’t enough to sustain you when you’re facing single parenthood, job loss, this world’s agenda, broken relationships, or a long recovery from a debilitating accident.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, the old professor is astonished when the squabbling Pevensie siblings refuse to believe Lucy’s story about the world within the wardrobe. “Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?” and he quickly gives them a lesson in critical thinking. With the torrent of information that cascades over us, it’s important to have a measurement device for truth.
One of the tools teachers use is Bloom’s taxonomy. It is a way of helping students move beyond simple memorization of facts and basic knowledge of a subject to higher-order thinking skills like applying, analyzing, and evaluating. Critical thinking skills help students ask penetrating questions in order to be an evaluator of truth rather than a consumer.
- A TV ad says, “9 out of 10 dentists recommend it.” But from what pool are these dentists pulled? Are these nine dentists related to the advertiser? Paid by the advertisers for their opinion? Where are these dentists located?
- You Google “best lasagna recipe” and get 54,200,000 results in 0.46 seconds. But what standard is being used for “best” and who decides what’s at the top of the list? Is Google’s algorithm different from other search engines and why?
As I told my students: Ask questions! Ask questions! Ask questions!
In Matthew 5-7 Jesus gives his manifesto on the kingdom of heaven. The last story in the Sermon on the Mount metaphorically sums up the whole sermon. This is the parable of the two houses, one built on the sand and one on the rock (7:24-27). “God is my Rock.” “Jesus is the cornerstone.” These ideas explain the symbol of the rock. The man building on the rock is basing his core foundation on the immovable God of the Universe.
But what about the foolish man? Is he as foolish as he appears? He too hears Jesus’ teachings and builds a house that is identical in form to the other man’s. He is successful and respected and no one would suspect that his house is in grave danger. After all, sand is also rock, albeit in miniature form. But although sand may seem level and firm, water and wind destroy its permanence. Water, often a symbol for chaos in the Bible, turns sand into liquid form as a “Survivor” team discovered when their beach sand cave collapsed in a big storm.
The difference in the two foundations is that one builder placed his confidence in God and one contractor trusted in himself. “The rock, of course, is Christ, as the sand is self. But the test, the mark, the evidence, the proof of the two builders and the two buildings is the hearing of Christ’s sayings and doing them, or the hearing of Christ’s sayings and doing them not” (J.C. Philpot, The Precepts of the Word of God).
Our human effort, our focus on ourselves, our human logic and emotion are the sand that will not hold up in a crisis. Everything you think is permanent will dissolve under pressure if it’s not based on the permanence of Christ, the Rock. As the commentator Matthew Henry says, “every thing besides Christ is sand.” Where is the curriculum for that?
So when Alexa announces 46,523 choices or your newsfeed is full of conflicting election theories, you need a Godly template, a pattern to use to compare each idea or particle of information that comes your way so that you’re building on a solid foundation. In order to sieve information according to God’s priorities, you need heaven’s algorithm. First, God sent Jesus to be a living, breathing example of how love is the operating system of his universe. Second, he made available the Spirit so that each of us could have access to that operating system and live the life that Jesus modeled for us.
There is only one Jesus with a corporal body, but the Spirit is global, incarnating in the lives of the corporate body of Christ. That gift means every one of us, if we choose to accept it, can have the “mind of Christ.” The God of the universe is in you doing the hard work of bringing every thought, attitude, and action into alignment with his character so that you become a beacon of connectivity to the God of the universe.
Jesus gave us clear guidelines on how to order our lives. When asked what the greatest commandment was, he gave us two. Here’s the template on how to live with a solid foundation:
Love God and Love People.
- Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-29; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:27; Deuteronomy 6:4,5.
- Treat people the way you want them to treat you. Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31.
- I command you to love one another. John 13:34; John 15:12,17.
- God loved the world so much he sent Jesus to save us. John 3:16
These are the texts on which the Christian life is based, the concrete foundation on which to build your life.
What’s at the core of your operating system? Is it based on what you can give or is it based on what you can get?
To my students, there’s no way I can gather you all back together and have the opportunity to speak into your lives again, but if I could, this is what I would say: I wish I had taught you how to use the Love God/Love People sieve because now you’re forced to be curators of all the world’s knowledge. I didn’t see that coming and prepare you well enough, but it’s not too late to wash away the sand in your life and build on the Rock.
God loves you with an unselfish love. Love like Jesus did; love God, love people. Even in the midst of your own pain, make your focus “The Big Test” of Matthew 25—have you served up a cup of cold water today? Clothed the vulnerable? Visited those trapped in addictions of all kinds? Are you living to bring glory to God by seeing through his eyes and pouring out his abundant love and generosity on the good as well as the not-so-good? Are you living life with an open heart, attitude, and spirit? Love like Jesus did; love God, love people.
I pray that the gigabytes of storage in your heart will be filled with love and that you will want to find answers through the Father’s algorithm of unselfish love and compassion. I pray that you will not be satisfied with the results the world brings you, but that you will make an advanced search to understand Jesus, God’s plan, more clearly, that you will realize you are made in the image of God with the power available to live generously in his kingdom now. I love you all and you’re still on my prayer list (you, that fidgety boy on the second row; or you, the girl with the smart mouth; or you, the one with her head down and soul filled with despair).
My heart and mind is connected to the Creator God, the author of the operating system of love and generosity that powers everything. My smart phone may hold the world of knowledge, but God holds the universe.
Kris Coffin Stevenson is an author, teacher, editor, and scopist. She loves living her eternal life starting now. She and her husband reside in Santa Clarita, California. You can follow her writing at bthelove.net or bthelove on Facebook.