The alarm on my phone blared. “Maybe I could figure out how to lower the volume,” I mumbled to myself. “Or change the factory preset ringtone to something more soothing—like the sound of a child chewing gummy bears.” Rolling over, I knew I had fourteen more minutes of precious sleep before it blasted again. I yanked the covers toward myself, continuing the game of tug-of-war my wife had initiated earlier that night.
Half awake, half asleep, I started thinking about my phone. Chuckling to myself, I thought, “My phone faithfully wakes me up every morning. Good phone.” I continued to try to force myself to sleep. 13 minutes. Then, before I could stop it, another thought slipped inside my mind. “You can’t do anything without your phone, can you?” I really didn’t like that thought and was annoyed it was keeping me awake. 12 minutes.
But I couldn’t halt the thought process: I grab my phone as I get out of bed. I listen to Father Mike on a podcast as I make breakfast and get out the door for my 5 am shift. I listen to music all day long. My phone never leaves me as I come home to exercise with a phone app to track my progress. I listen to more podcasts, more music. As the evening turns into night, my phone is the last thing I touch before I go to bed. 10 minutes.
I thought of all the gods and goddesses of the Greek and Roman Empires. I thought of the statues, the idolatry, the false worship. I couldn’t shake the thought that I, too, was holding onto a handcrafted idol in the form of my phone. My phone is a god, an idol. I make it so. 9 minutes.
There’s no way around it. If I carried a doll around with me wherever I went and it didn’t leave my immediate grasp at any time, day or night, then you’d be correct to argue that I had a serious issue. And you may be right. 8 minutes.
But we do this with our phones. Why can’t we see it? Why can’t we see that we carry tiny glowing gods in our pockets and worship them all day. 7 minutes. To worship is to show ‘worth-ship’ to something. We show the object of our attention how much worth it carries in our lives. Since we can’t put our phones down, then they must carry a lot of worth. 6 minutes.
Then I thought of the Rich Young Ruler from the Bible. I actually started to fall asleep at this point, so I began to dream of the scene of the young ruler approaching Jesus, asking Him what he could do to inherit eternal life.
“You know the commandments,” Jesus said. “Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Do not defraud. Honor your father and mother.” 5 minutes. The rich young ruler told Jesus he had kept all these commandments since he was a kid. Then Jesus pointed out the ‘bulge’ in the rich young ruler’s pocket. 4 minutes.
“You lack one thing,” Jesus informed him, “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The rich young ruler knew exactly what Jesus was getting at. And the poor boy couldn’t do it. Instead of listening to Jesus and responding to the opportunity of a lifetime to follow Him as a disciple, he put his head down and walked away. 3 minutes.
Still dreaming, I saw the rich young ruler check his phone as he sulked away. Then the dream became about me. Jesus extended his hand to me and said, “Leave your phone and follow me.” 2 minutes. But I didn’t know if I could do it.
What would you do? If Jesus asked you to follow him, but you had to leave behind your phone, would you do it? Could you do it? Really think about it. Or, would you walk away from Jesus with your head down, sorrowful, because you know you’d prefer to have your tiny phone-god than Him?
Time to wake up.