Improved Means…

Lately, I have been interested in the idea of our technology getting too far ahead of us and the ramifications this has, not only on the world but on Christians. In the last 70 years alone, both our common and cutting-edge tech has screamed past anything imaginable even 100 years ago. As an example, I was recently struck by the ascension of Joash to the throne of Judah (2 Kings 11:10). To have the arms to defend the new king against his usurper grandma, Joash’s men raided the temple for king David’s golden spears and shields (2 Sam. 8:7). This was a boon for them. The way battles were waged had remained the same for a millennium, so a 125-year-old spear was still, pardon the pun, on the cutting edge. But can you imagine if someone today pulled out a Krag bolt-action rifle from 1897 and tried to wage modern warfare? Such a service rifle comes from a world that could not yet imagine worldwide war.

My thoughts on the concept are, however, not a new idea. Henry Thoreau said in Walden (1854) that, “As with our colleges, so with a hundred “modern improvements”; there is an illusion about them; there is not always a positive advance. The devil goes on exacting compound interest to the last for his early share and numerous succeeding investments in them. Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at; as railroads lead to Boston or New York. We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate. Either is in such a predicament as the man who was earnest to be introduced to a distinguished deaf woman, but when he was presented, and one end of her ear trumpet was put into his hand, had nothing to say. As if the main object were to talk fast and not to talk sensibly. We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the New; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough. After all, the man whose horse trots a mile in a minute does not carry the most important messages; he is not an evangelist, nor does he come round eating locusts and wild honey.

We know that technology of any era isn’t evil in itself, but as Thoreau says, it accelerates the ability to do evil. Especially for the undisciplined. If, as MLK Jr. said, “we have allowed our technology to outdistance our theology” then we will “find ourselves caught up with many problems.” Referencing Thoreau, he concludes, “What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world of means — airplanes, televisions, electric lights — and lose the end: the soul?” How much is your tech really helping you? Could you live the true life in Christ without them? Would your life look any different, or are these improved means leading you to an unimproved end?