Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Think about how many things in life you need to apply that principle to. While you’re at it, reconsider where you feel you’ve nailed it but may actually need a good gut-check.
How about when it comes to technology in your life or ministry?
My 12-year old son owns an MP3 player that I don’t see much of. He only uses it a few times a week, which means I typically refresh his playlist about every two months. That happened recently when he mentioned how he’d put the device on my office desk and was hoping I could add some new tracks.
It seemed like an easy enough task.
The only problem was I ended up loading songs into the wrong MP3 player. Apparently, I own one that I don’t see much of either. Both are black, only mine has a screen that allows the user to see the title of the track that’s playing. I didn’t realize my mistake until my son pointed it out to me.
“Here you go, buddy,” I said, placing the device on the dining room table.
“What’s that?” he asked.
I was confused. “It’s your MP3 player.”
He was confused. “No, it isn’t.”
“Wait… that isn’t yours, is it? I’m sorry. You’re right. I must have loaded songs onto the wrong player. Tell you what – I don’t really use this one, so how about you just keep it? It’s actually a much better device.”
“I appreciate that,” he offered, “but I’m content with the one I have.”
I was confused again. “Well, I understand that you like the other one, but did you notice how you can see the title for the track you’re playing on this one?”
“Yep, but I don’t need that.”
“This one will also let you fast-forward more easily,” I countered.
“Dad, I’m really content with what I have. Is that okay?”
It was a striking question.
Of course, I know the right answer. My wife and I intentionally nurture the value of simplicity into our family. It’s also a benchmark of how I try to minister in our church.
Still, I didn’t realize until that defining moment how much I’ve let “justifiable greed” snag pieces of me that I still need to push back against. I literally was on the verge of debating with my son that he needed a “better” device to be happy. Thankfully, I shut my mouth and honored his decision.
Here’s the principle again: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
We can easily struggle with this when it comes to a kind of tech lust in ministry. Here are a few reasons why:
- Peer Comparison: Perhaps your conscious frustration with how other churches have more resources than you is creating some unconscious action steps in what you’re doing. Does your ministry website really need all the bells and whistles that their ministry does? Who is the website for, anyway?
- Self-Validation: It’s easy to spot how students use technology as a status symbol. Might you do the same thing? For example, is the purpose of your blog to share Jesus, or to create a platform to be “discovered” and “noticed?”
- Unnecessary Streamlining: In some cases, it makes sense to say something in a technological format to maximize the people we could reach. In many other cases, we use that as an excuse to avoid the hard work of investing into people. Do you really need to create your own podcast for students or youth ministry when you could instead use that time to personally talk with teenagers and fellow youth workers? Could a phone call or a personal visit have a greater impact than yet another text blast?
Decades ago, people generally believed that technology would make our lives easier. In some ways it has, but it’s also made it possible to complicate our lives that much more. You won’t just feel this when you’re banging on the church copier or yelling at your phone for not working with the speed you need them to.
You’ll usually feel it when you experience the inverse reality of the truth I shared earlier… for while it is true that “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” we’re more familiar with “Just because you should doesn’t mean you can.”
King Solomon (said to be one of the wisest men to have ever lived) shared about how he didn’t apply wisdom in this area: “Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)
Keep in mind:
- Not every piece of technology is essential. Things that were once cutting edge eventually become old news. When do we decide it isn’t worth it versus when it is?
- Not everyone will use technology the way you insist they should. Our church created a message board system to get everyone more active on our website. We later realized that more people in our church preferred to use Facebook instead. It was a good lesson to learn, but we wasted time creating something useless. (Tim Schmoyer shared some great thoughts on this.)
Maybe you don’t have access to what the church down the street does. Sorry about you not getting what you think you deserve.
What you do have that you can never deserve is Jesus Christ. He shared his most famous sermons on mountain sides and along the road. Here we are today, twenty centuries later, still affected by his personal investment into a dozen young people who changed the world.
Might there be a lesson there?
Share your thoughts:
Thank you for loving students!
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