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Are You Prepared to Take a Sabbath from Your Smartphone?

Are You Prepared to Take a Sabbath from Your Smartphone?

How would you describe “dread” in today’s society? Your smartphone battery is almost dead—and you have no way to charge it. 

How would you describe “panic”? You are out and about when, suddenly, you realize that you have left your phone at home.

How would you describe “catastrophe”? You drop your smartphone over the side of a boat and watch it vanish into oblivion—taking, it seems, your entire existence with it.

Let’s face it: We are slaves to our digital devices. The younger crowd doesn’t know what life was like without them because life with a phone or tablet is all they know. For older people who once lived without these things, it’s still hard to remember how we lived without them.

How did we ever communicate with friends, family, and co-workers? How did we keep up with the news? How did we ever find the nearest auto parts store? How did we bank? Or listen to music? Or know the weather? Or find out, in an instant, who won the 1928 World Series—or what year Napoleon Bonaparte married Josephine?

Anywhere you go, if people are walking down the street, sitting in a restaurant (even with others at the table), navigating store aisles, or even driving a car, you see heads down and thumbs tapping and swiping digital gadgets. That is, unless you are too busy looking down at your own.

We love our digital devices. They have radically changed our lives, often for good. But in other ways, they have caused major problems.

Our Digital Companions

A recent article from a Christian website,, deals with the dangers that our obsession with devices—phones, tablets, laptops, desktops—can present to our spiritual well-being. With “Screen Sabbaths: A Modest Proposal for a Digital World,” the site’s editor, Scott Hubbard, depicted how these devices can negatively impact humans.

“Our phones,” he writes, “shape us not only, perhaps not even mainly, by the content they deliver to us, but also by the mere presence of something so pleasing, so undemanding, so endlessly interesting. Smartphones, though small, exert a (subconscious) gravitational pull on our attention, drawing our thoughts and feelings into their orbit, even when their screens are dark.” 

Notice: It’s not just the content, which everyone knows can be bad, that can harm us—but also the ubiquitous presence of these intimate digital companions in our lives; they constantly pull us to them reflexively. Our codependence on them, Hubbard argues, is what could be their biggest negative.

Sure, we can use our devices to read the Bible for personal devotions and study, to conduct online Bible studies, or even to witness—but let’s be honest: How many hours do we waste watching or doing nonsense on these gadgets, things that do not in any way deepen our walk with the Lord or make us open to His Spirit? On the contrary, our time on them can work against any kind of spirituality. TikTok, after all, isn’t known for being a spiritually uplifting place—is it?

Hubbard also quoted research that shows that “more screen time causes more anxiety, depression, loneliness, and less emotional connection,” which is why Hubbard, perceptively, points back to the biblical Sabbath, the seventh-day Sabbath, as a way to help free us from our digital bondage.

Screen Sabbaths

His point is simple: Just as the Sabbath gave God’s people rest, we need the same today, only now we need rest for our internet-entangled souls.

“Now, how might we apply the Sabbath principle to our screen-addled, digitally saturated selves?” he asks. “The proposal is neither complicated nor novel: in order to resist the tug of your digital devices and live as a more present follower of Jesus, take a break from screens one day a week. Whether for a full 24 hours or for some other protected time, turn off the phone, close the computer, and plunge yourself into God’s created world, embodied and attentive to the people and places nearby. Call it a screen Sabbath.”

Hubbard more than once points to the seventh day, the biblical Sabbath, as the example of the rest that he is talking about—one subhead was “Spirit of the Seventh Day”—though he does make the unfortunate error of leaving up to the individual to choose the day they rest on.

The problem is that the seventh day was particularly chosen by God because it ended the six-day creation. “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11). Nothing about this commandment leaves it up to a person to choose their own day of rest. God chose the day for us and did so specifically because of its inseparable link to creation, the foundational truth upon which all other Christian truths rest. After all, what biblical truth makes sense apart from God as our Creator?

Also just as important—however good the idea of a break from our “digitally saturated selves”—the Sabbath is to be a rest from all work, from all the things that can, like our devices, distract us from God and from what really matters in life. In other words, many of the mundane activities that we do every day, while not bad in and of themselves, are still things that we need a break from, that we need to set aside in order to spiritually, physically, and emotionally recharge. And that’s what the Sabbath, the biblical Sabbath, offers us every seventh day.

So, yes, a “screen sabbath” is good, but the Word of God takes us much deeper than just turning off our devices for a day. To learn more about the seventh-day Sabbath, what it offers, and why it’s important, check out “100 Amazing Facts About Saturday and Sunday.” 

This article contributed by Clifford Goldstein
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