Monday, May 11, 2020

Have We Forgotten How to Turn On Our Thinking Caps?

Modern living in the 21stcentury has brought us many advantages, but sometimes advancements have drawbacks as well. One of them, I’m afraid, is a diminished capacity for thinking.

Take, for example, how the TV dominates many homes. We sit on our couches staring at the screen, human sponges passively absorbing content without actively challenging what we see and hear. An exception, of course, is when we argue with news commentators espousing views contrary to our own. Otherwise, when “experts” are thrust in front of our eyes, we’re told their opinions are beyond questioning.

We’ve got Alexa and Siri to gather information, saving us the trouble of having to do it ourselves. With just a tad more effort, we can let Google do the job. Increasingly “smart” homes can be programmed to set and change the temperature, turn lights on and off, tell us who’s at the front door, cook our meals, wake us up and serenade us to sleep. And lots of other stuff. No human thinking required.

Video games and apps restrict our brain activity to the point that we’re puzzled when asked, “What book have you been reading lately?” Because for some of us, that’s an activity we haven’t been doing at all. It takes too much reading, comprehending and physically turning pages for thoroughly modern 21stcentury guys and gals.

This increasingly broad intellectual vacuum can take its toll spiritually as well. We let preachers and celebrity speakers talk to us about God without demanding any interaction from us at all. As if spiritual growth is something that occurs by osmosis. We “sit under” biblical authorities and marvel at their keen insights and understanding.

Unfortunately, allowing them to do all the Bible reading and study, then informing us about what it says, compares to going into a fine restaurant – remember those days? – ordering a meal, and having someone else chew up our food, then spit it out and let us swallow it. Not a very pleasant thought, right? Eww!

I’m thankful for all the wonderful men and women of God who have contributed to my spiritual journey, but one’s walk with the Lord was never intended to be a spectator sport. I think of when Moses’s successor, Joshua, exhorted the Israelites as they prepared to venture into the Promised Land: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

In some Christian circles, the term “meditate” or “meditation” is the equivalent of a four-letter word. It conjures images of people seated cross-legged in lotus positions, humming mind-numbing mantras. But that’s not at all what meditation involves for followers of Jesus. Instead, it means intense thinking, pondering and reflecting on the truths God sets out for us in His Word.

There’s another passage that immediately comes to mind. Thinking about what it takes to become a faithful, fruitful servant of God, King David wrote, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word…. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9-11). It seems David had not only read the Scriptures, but also committed some of it to memory so he could “chew on it” on a regular basis.

Then there’s the apostle Paul, who in effect was giving the secret to surviving the negative, discouraging atmosphere in which we live today. He exhorted his readers, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). When I read this, I envision someone concentrating intently on the truths and precepts, the principles, virtues and values we find presented in the Bible.

Years ago, children’s TV shows would encourage young viewers to “turn on your thinking caps.” Maybe it’s time to revisit those days – at least to the extent of becoming people who enjoy thinking and wondering about important things, rather than letting people tell us what to think. 

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