One of the latest major updates for the iPhone includes a new setting called “Screen Time.” Using Screen Time, users visually can see data created around how you use your phone. This includes how often you pick up your phone, how many notifications you receive in a day, and the ultimate gut check: how much time you spend on each app. Yikes. Our phones have been integrated in our lives to the point where even tech companies and app developers are trying to give us tools to discern their place in our daily rhythms.
As Christians, we add another layer to our phone usage: our faith. It's not just about how much time we are on our phones, it is also about how we are using them. In his letter to the people in Colossae, Paul gives this advice: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above . . . Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
Specifically as we are in a month culturally paired with “Giving Thanks”—Christian or not—if you are interacting with social media you have seen pushes for gratitude challenges or reminders to count your blessings.
What does a gratitude challenge really accomplish? While there is not necessarily anything overtly wrong about taking time to acknowledge thankfulness for pieces of your life, typically the challenges are ultimately asking you to be self-focused as you “give thanks”.
Don’t get me wrong. There is an actual link to taking time to be grateful and the positive impact that has on your physical health. But I think our timelines for being thankful should go beyond a social media push during the holidays. In the New Testament, Paul takes a lot of time through his letters to teach churches and believers about living in Christ.
What is most interesting to me in all of his teachings is that he consistently ends his lists of instructions for the Christian lifestyle with the final instruction to be thankful. He encourages the reader to let Christ’s word dwell in them with thankfulness in their heart to God. (Colossians 3:16) He writes that whatever the reader does should not only be in the name of Jesus, but should include giving thanks to God.
Paul uses similar guidelines in his letter to the Ephesians. He gives guidance on how to live a life in Christ that includes the encouragement to speak thanksgiving instead of obscenities, foolish talk, or coarse joking. (Ephesians 5:4) His push is to always give thanks to God.
Being thankful is more than posting and hashtagging thankful pictures during the holiday season. We are called to a lifestyle of thankfulness. When the peace of Christ rules in our hearts, we have the ability to go beyond just making lists of gratitudes to truly embodying thankfulness in our lives year-round. Let us give thanks this holiday season not for what we have but for who we have: a Savior.