Pastoral Perspectives

Time for an upgrade?

Recently, Apple launched their iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+ to some degree of fanfare around the world. As expected, long queues were also formed in Singapore and those who were more “entrepreneurial” reportedly made a handsome profit just by reselling the latest model.

To be honest, I am rather skeptical about the excitement. To begin with, there are hardly any ground-breaking improvements or vital upgrades from the iPhone 5. Unless we are saying that size matters. Otherwise, since the iPhone 5 is already quite a “smart” phone, I am not even sure if the iPhone 6 is marginally better given the recent complaints.

It is worth noting that many today seem to believe that they cannot do without the latest model, whether the product is a phone, an electrical gadget or some fashion accessory. Somehow, there will be this grudging dissatisfaction in our hearts until we lay our hands on the newest arrival. For some, we may feel embarrassed in front of our friends, colleagues or clients if we are still carrying an older model.

But why should this be the case? Is the technology in our older phones so obsolete? Or are those phones already inadequate for our purposes? It was not that long ago when experts inform us that some of our smartphones has more computing power than NASA had in order to accomplish the launching of a rocket that took men to the moon and back. Yet, these days, when our phones take a few more seconds to download or process some information, we are likely to get upset over its perceived tardiness.

Here, Dr Albert Mohler shed some helpful insight. Referring to the smartphone, he says, “what we’re looking at here is a marvel, but we are living in an age in which having marvel is not enough.

Judging from the long queues outside the telcos or Apple stores, we realise that many are hungering for something more. And just as each tree is recognised by it fruits (Luke 6:44), our consumerist mindset do reveal a great deal about ourselves. While some are merely hoping to snap up a bargain, others may have mistakenly believed that the newest phone is what they really need for their lives.

So how should Christians respond whenever companies boast of their newest product? To be sure, Christians need not imitate the Amish who avoid becoming dependent upon modern technology or follow the Luddites in resisting technological innovations. More importantly, we are reminded by Jesus that it is not what goes into our mouth that makes us unclean rather it is what comes out of our mouth (Matt 15:11,18). In other words, our smartphone is not necessarily the problem. It is how our hearts respond in relation to the smartphone that we should be concerned about.

There is no doubt the way we use our phones and what value we place on them will invariably influence us in a profound way. Sometimes, the brand or model of smartphone can easily become a status symbol and something we based on identity or self-worth upon. For that matter, this applies to anything that is created since there is always the potential of it becoming an idol in our lives. It could be the car we drive, the jobs we hold, the schools our children attend or the fancy joints we have our meals at.

If we desire to be fruitful followers of Christ, let us consider the following questions. “How can our smartphone help us to love God and love our neighbours? Are we using some Apps to grow in our understanding and application of God’s Word or are we merely amusing ourselves with entertainment or juicy gossip during those MRT rides and long queues? How much of those photos we post are meant to honour the people around us or are they intended to boost our ego or put others down? How often are our Whatsapp messages bringing encouragement and comfort instead of exchanging trivia and passing snide remarks?

Thankfully, Christians are free to decide for ourselves whether we want to be Apple fans or Samsung converts. We could even remain Nokia diehards. But what does matter is how we are being intentional about growing as Christ’s disciples. It would be a tragic inconsistency if we can be so keen to upgrade our smartphones and everything else but show little interest in equipping and availing ourselves for God’s Kingdom purposes.

Let us pray that our “heartware” will always be one filled with marvel over the glorious love and holiness of our Risen Saviour. Indeed, may our hearts overflow with passion to make Christ known and discipling others to be likewise. And until Christ comes again, may none of us ever remain as babes in the faith, still stuck in Christianity 1.0.

Rev Edwin Wong

October 5, 2014