Jeremiah was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time.
- Jeremiah 37:16
When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
- Acts 16:24
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
- Acts 12:7
Two situations came to my attention in the past week. It caused me to do something odd.
I first searched, in my favorite Bible website, for references in the NIV to ‘phone.’ There were none. What a surprise!
As some very conservative denominations might say, “If it is not in the Bible, it is ‘of the Devil’ and thus not necessary, and, in fact, sin.” I do not hold to that, but anything that becomes so important that all else ceases to exist – now we’re talking.
To be thorough, I went to the same search engine (on the computer, not the smartphone) and looked up ‘cell,’ as in cellphone. All three references to ‘cell’ have become the Scripture references above. All three pertain to a room in a dungeon, jail, or other space of incarceration.
Kathy, of atimetoshare.me, had made a comment last week about cellphones, and I commented that this post might be brewing. ‘Brewing’ because I saw, and heard about, young people on smartphones, and I felt I had to write something. Kathy suggested “smartphones and slavery.” When you read the Scriptures above, you can make that connection easily.
But first, when I was visiting a family member about a week ago (the time this was written). This family member had legal custody of her great-grandchild. Families who have illegal drug users in the family unit can be declared unfit, even if they do not do drugs themselves. At least, the child did not have to grow up in that environment. When we visited, there were four generations there, except for the parents of the young one. All wanted to visit with my wife and I and almost all carried on intelligent conversation, except for the child, who was grade-school age. The child hardly ate anything at the meal and said nothing, not even “Hello.” The face was buried in a video game on an iPhone.
Fast forward to a couple of days ago. I was made aware of a similar story. A boy, a little older than my relative, would talk a little until his parents bought him an iPhone. Once he got the iPhone, he buried his face in the phone and would never speak.
It is coincidence that both smartphones were iPhones in these stories. Maybe the next example that I hear about or observe, will be with an Android smartphone. Environmental concerns, or at least a history of a poor environment for child rearing, might contribute. But I was told that my social skills were dampened having grown up on a farm. You see a need; you learn, but you have to be looking at the time. The child may be treated differently due to past trauma. It could be that the phone kept them out of trouble, calmer and less prone to loud outbursts. But I have heard of teens meeting at a party and never saying a single word. Everyone at the party was focused on their phones, texting to others who were in the same room. Maybe the parents exaggerated, but I doubt it. And the sad thing is that they were not texting complete words in complete sentences.
I am an introvert by temperament, but I have learned to meet people and talk to them. I have even learned to look people in the eye, especially while teaching class. (Even your tone of voice changes to conversation, rather than lecture, with practiced eye contact.) But, I agree with a psychologist who said that if an introvert is looking you in the eye (one-on-one), he is not listening at all. He is using all his mental faculties on doing something that is not comfortable, looking you in the eye.
That being said, if you wish to succeed in life, you have to break out of the smartphone prison.
In the Scriptures above, each of the people who was imprisoned was released in one way or another. In Jeremiah, Jeremiah was eventually released from the dungeon, but Jeremiah was answerable to God, not the king. The king occasionally reacted to what Jeremiah said, and had to cool off, or need to speak with Jeremiah about the next crisis before Jeremiah received the get-out-of-jail card. In Acts 12, Peter faced death, but an angel assisted in his escape. In Acts 16, God brought an earthquake to free Paul and Silas, but they did not leave the prison. This led to the jailor and his family coming to know Jesus as their Savior. Paul and Silas were later released.
But what of those trapped by a cellphone? Is there any earthquake to free them?
What is their God? If given a choice of their Bible or their phone, they’d choose the phone. Of course, they can get the Bible on-line, with an adequate signal.
I believe I saw a comedy sketch once, but it could have been a dream. Everyone was entering a church. The ushers patted each person down and removed their cellphones. The phones went into a basket. The church members were confused and frightened, but they reluctantly went to their pews. When the basket was full, a curtain behind the ushers was drawn back, revealing a mulching machine. It was turned on. Then the usher dumped the basket of phones into the machine, with several church members screaming “NO” and diving into the blades to rescue their phones. Was that a dream or did I really see it on television?
Regardless, it points to the importance of our phones. In the movie theaters, they use airplane mode and leave the phone on. Some get up and leave the theater to take a call. Some risk being kicked out of the theater by continuing to play their games or check e-mails during the movie. Why pay good money to watch a movie and then ‘not watch the movie?’ People have been removed from airplanes for not quitting a game on the phone.
If someone has not heard a cellphone ring during a church service, they don’t go to church. At our church, it is not often heard, but it still happens. In the old days of pagers, my wife and I knew a guy who had someone from work page him during the worship service just to let everyone at church know how important he was. Does the same thing happen today using cellphones?
Of course, no one would ever listen to me. I am old, old enough to remember “the good ole days.” I grew up on a farm when we had a party line. We shared a line with our neighbors. If they were on the phone, you had to wait before making your call. We were one long and two shorts (rings, that is). Otherwise, you did not answer the phone. When we left the house to go to church or the store or school, we had no answering machine. The call was simply missed. And for those who read this and cannot comprehend, we survived!!!!
TURN THE PHONE OFF!
Once you have done so, you might find that your heart rate goes down, once the anxiety of phone withdrawal dies down. You might find peace. You might find out that you can hear things like birds singing, insects chirping, the wind in the trees, and in the distance a dog barking a few blocks away. You might experience “LIFE.”
For those reading this on a phone in a country that did not have telephones for the general public until cellphones were invented and available, the cellphone is your connection to the rest of the world, but a cellphone should never replace looking into the eyes of the one that you love.
And more importantly, a cellphone should never come between you and your worship of Almighty God.
I now understand why they confiscate cellphones in most schools. For the last ten years of my industrial instruction career, there was that half of the class (on the back two rows) that watched videos on their phones, while getting paid to not learn what I was teaching. I still got paid as the visiting expert. They got paid also, but they should have been threatened with losing their job. But you cannot make someone want to learn, regardless of your motivational skills. If they want to remain ignorant, it’s their choice.
When at church, if the phone is off for a few hours or even left at home, other people can leave a message, or better yet, they can join you in worshipping the God who created all those chemicals that went into the parts of that cellphone.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.