How Smartphones Are Ruining Our Appetite for God


RANDY CHO     |     FEB 13, 2018     |     8 MIN READ


I was driving to a cafe and I noticed something very interesting as I was stopped at a red light: Every driver around me was using his or her phone. The person to my left, to my right, and behind me had the exact same posture and facial expression as they were being entranced by their cell phones. I felt like I was in an episode of Black Mirror.

My initial reaction was to take out my phone and blast these people on my Instagram story, but then I realized that my phone had power over me as well. I am no different from these robot-looking smartphone consumers, waiting for the light to turn green. I have a smartphone problem.

Studies show that individuals from ages 18 to 24 check their smartphones 86 times a day. As a nation, we look at our phones 12 billion times a day!

Why are we so obsessed with our phones? Why do have the urge to check our feed while we’re pooping or in the middle of a boring conversation?

It exposes a diminishing appetite for God.

I believe it’s because we seek distractions in order to avoid the problems we face in life. We’d rather look through our Instagram stories than engage in a conversation in public to avoid awkwardness. We’d rather play a couple rounds of Clash Royale than study for that quiz tomorrow as an attempt to avoid inevitable stress. We find clever ways to kill time with our smartphones to remedy our problem of boredom.

Our unhealthy smartphone usage reveals our inability to wait patiently. It reveals our desire for noise and a reluctance to listen in silence. It reveals a comfort-driven heart that seeks the path of least resistance.

On a deeper level, and perhaps worse, it exposes a diminishing appetite for God. We are spiritually obese and too full off of the pleasures of this world. Our minds are constantly preoccupied because of our phones, making it hard for us to think of the things that are above (Col. 3:1-2).

Here are 3 ways smartphones are ruining our appetite for God:

1.  We become envious of others

If you’ve noticed, the acronym FOMO has never existed prior to Snapchat and Instagram. Why? Because we were never aware of the fact that we’re actually “missing out” until we saw our friends post stories of their spur-of-the-moment late night taco adventures.

The heart of FOMO is covetousness (Exod. 20:17; Col. 3:5). The smartphone has given us more access to the private lives of others, which is why when we see our friend’s stories, we begin to covet the plane tickets to Portland, the annual passes to Disneyland, the outfits of our favorite Instagram celebs, and of course, the romantic relationships.

2.  We obsess over our self-image

Would you post anything on social media if there were no likes, comments, or responses? If we were to be honest with ourselves, most of the content we post is for the sake of gaining approval from others. The “like” and “share” function on social media has exacerbated this problem.

Many of us, including me, are guilty of doing ridiculous things “for the gram.” We’re willing to go on YOLO adventures or do controversial things and post it just to get views. Just look at Logan and Jake Paul.

3.  We become desensitized to sexual sin

The fact that “send nudes” has become a meme shows that our culture now encourages and glorifies those who take naked selfies in order to gratify others.

With Snapchat, Tinder, sexting, and pornography being more easily accessible than ever, sexual immorality has not only become accepted in our culture, but viewed as normal. People nowadays casually talk about watching porn as if it’s a normal routine in one’s life, and judge those who choose to abstain from watching it.

So what now?

The first step is to acknowledge and confess that we have a smartphone problem. We’re addicted to this device that prevents us from enjoying God.

Second, here are some heart-check questions to consider as you use your phones (from Tony Reinke’s book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You):

  • Do my smartphone behaviors move me towards God or away from Him?

  • Do my smartphone behaviors edify me and others or do they build nothing of lasting value?

  • Do my smartphone behaviors expose my freedom in Christ or my bondage to technology?

I do believe that the smartphone can be used effectively to advance the Kingdom of God for His glory, but it can also be an idol. We must be self-aware and vigilant with how we use it.

Randy Cho currently serves as the Associate Pastor at the Exchange Church and on Steering Core for Korean-American Campus Missions. He is a graduate of Talbot School of Theology.