Family Values Week 2 - "Screen Time vs. Family Time"
This week I am actually preaching on just two verses. I know. It's kind of a Baptist move. Sue me. I used to be one.
In a culture that is filled with uncertainty, we need to rediscover some family values that help us understand what is truly important. This is the purpose of the sermon series that I'm working on for the rest of this month.
The topic this week has to do with getting your priorities right--especially your priorities as they relate to your family. I think that one of the greatest foes of the family in our culture has little to do with what most folks would consider "moral" issues, and everything to do with what we give or don't give to our families of ourselves and all that we have.
The title of the sermon is sort of misleading---but in a good way. The bottom line, the take-away, the main point that I am hoping to make is simply this: There is no excuse for not giving your family your very best. But in order to give your family your best, you've got to get some stuff straight when it comes to what you value, and the order of your priorities.
As I was thinking about ways to illustrate this, I couldn't help but think of the role that Technology has come to play in our society. In fact, I sort of grandly refer to this as The Great Metaphor.
Here's a fun question for us all... How much time do you spend watching TV? Working on the computer at home? Messing with your smart phone? Playing video games? Sending emails?
The way I see it, there are two basic views of Technology in our culture:
View #1 - Technology Brings Anxiety - Given, most of the people who hold this view of technology have become overwhelmed by the technological strides that have been made over the past fifteen years. They would undoubtedly prefer to return to a time before laptops, accessible Internet, cable TV and smart phones. In their minds, technology has not brought a better life or made a better world. They believe things are more complicated, and convoluted as a result of technology, and it's not getting better.
View #2 - Technology Brings Progress - To the people who hold this view, technology is not something to be feared, but is the path to a better life and a better world. They are often immersed in technology, and are connected to their communities (both "real" and "online") in a variety of ways.
The interesting thing about these views is that BOTH of them place technology at the center of the conversation. On the one hand, technology is viewed as the source of anxiety and cultural ills. On the other hand, technology is viewed as the source of progress and human advancement. But it isn't.
The reason why human beings desire to see the world become a better place (a better definition of "progress") is because we are all created in the image of God (imago dei) and the desire to see the shalom or the kingdom of God on earth is deep within us.
And anxiety is a direct result of sin (yes, I said it) which is simply defined as a separation from God and others.
So, let's take this analogy into our discussion of family values....
When you give your family your best, when you're priorities are straight and you are doing everything you can to bring shalom to your family---you are being the person God has created you to be. You reflect God's image in you, and fulfill your destiny.
When you do not give your family your best, when they get less of you than they deserve, when you value all sorts of things above them---you are sinning. You have separated yourself from God and God's desire for your life. You have also separated yourself from your family.
At this point, I have to ask myself the tough question, "Am I giving my family my best?" And even further, "What does it look look like when I don't?"
Here's a clue...
The first verse I chose this week was Proverbs 11:29 "Those who bring ruin on their families will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise."
The second verse is I Timothy 5:8 "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
I guess the key phrases here are "those who bring ruin" and "anyone who does not provide."
Scholars widely believe that the reference in Proverbs 11:29 has to do with the story of Simone and Levi from Genesis 34. These two sons of Jacob slaughtered all of the men from a rival Canaanite tribe to avenge the rape of their sister, Dinah. As a result of their violent revenge, God cursed them and their descendants. I know that this sound harsh, but it reveals quite simply that sin affects more than just the sinner. In this case, the sinner's family is adversely affected by the rash, ruinous decisions of the sinner.
I Timothy 5:8 is a verse that is found in the context of caring for widows and needy family members. The word "provide" has much more to do with finances and "food on the table." It has to do with well-being, presence and needs. And Paul claims that a person who is emotionally, physically and spiritually unavailable to his/her family basically repudiates Christianity. Since he's speaking to Christians, Paul makes it personal. He essentially states that such a person is professing Christ with their words, but denying him with their deeds. They are behaving as if Christ never came.
This hits me close to home. I am convicted even by writing these words, much less proclaiming them as I will have to do tomorrow morning. That's why I need to hear what follows...
If we want to give our families our best, those of us who want to stumble after Jesus need to start doing the following things well:
1. Undivided Attention - We need to learn how to be fully present with our families. Our children and grandchildren will not remember us for how devoted we were to our jobs and how much time we spent away from home. And even when we are physically present we need to be spiritually and emotionally present as well. When we're checking emails, selfishly watching TV all the time, or any number of things that keep us from being with our loved ones we are sinning and need to repent. They deserve our undivided attention.
2. Money & Mouth - Providing for your family requires financial maturity. Do you really need that brand new car, or does your kid need to go to college instead? How important is your extra wide LCD flat screen television when you can't afford to pay down your debt? You may enjoy going out to dinner every night, but you could be using all the money your spending on night's on the town to go on an unforgettable family vacation that will make lifetime memories.
3. Public/Private Integrity - What sort of person are you when you are with your family as opposed to when you are not? Some people are beloved at work and feared in their living room. Some people are well-regarded in their community and lazy and indolent with their loved ones. Others are righteous and spiritual in church and could care less about faith when they are in front of the TV or the computer in their own home. We need to live congruent lives as Jesus did if we are going to have the kind of integrity our families deserve.
These are difficult challenges to face, but I am afraid if those of us who call ourselves Christians don't begin to face them, the Church and our communities of faith will continue to suffer and decay. I believe that in order to strengthen our congregations, we need to strengthen the families that constitute them. It has to begin with us.