Distractions in Marriage – Part 3: Controlling Technology

We are in the midst of a series on distractions and their impact on our lives. They can be deadly to our marriages, and they can be disastrous to our relationship with God. Last week we began looking at some solutions from God’s Word to the problems that can arise from distractions. This week we examine one of our most problematic distractions—technology.

We started the first two posts with an example of the dangers of distractions in our everyday lives. As further evidence of the distraction of technology, just last week, Honolulu became the first city in the United States to make it illegal to cross a street while texting. The Honolulu City Council passed the law entitled “The Distracted Walker Law.” Mayor Kirk Caldwell explained: “We hold the unfortunate distinction of being a major city with more pedestrians being hit in crosswalks…than almost any other city in the country.”

Recently Sabra did a little unscientific research through Facebook. She asked her friends to name distractions they believed negatively impacted them and their relationship with their spouse. After reading her results, I also did research by looking at several scientific studies on the topic. The results were amazingly similar. In the next few weeks, I will use these results to discuss some of the most identified distractions.

The number one distraction listed was technology. This included texting, the internet, and smartphones, as well as the old favorites—TV and video games.

So how do we use the technology so needed in today’s world and yet keep it from distracting us from what’s important in our relationships?

As stated before in this series, technology itself is not evil. In fact, it has many good uses.

You are using some form of technology to read this post. And I obviously don’t believe it is evil, or Sabra and I would not be writing these messages and posting them on the internet.

God can use technology for good in our lives. But when we’re not careful, it can definitely become a distraction that gets in the way of what God wants us to do.

In order to keep technology from becoming a problem–and hinder Satan’s attempts to use it for evil–we must control it. This is true both in what we use it for and in how much time we spend using it.

I’ve counseled many couples who have allowed technology to interfere with their relationship. While eating dinner together, they also text. Or when they watch TV together—which may or may not be quality time—they are on their computers or using their smartphones. This sometimes happens in my own marriage, too. It is just so easy to do. And it’s something we must not allow to come between us.

Jesus—through a purposely extreme teaching to make His point—makes it clear that we must not let anything harm our relationship with Him. This is true in our relationship with each other as well. In fact, this teaching refers specifically to a marriage issue. It is found in Matthew 5:27-30:

“‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery,” 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.’”

Jesus mentions the eye and the hand. Neither of these is sinful in itself. And both are given to us by God to be used for good. But when we use them for evil—when we use them to sin—we must take extreme measures to bring them under control.

In the same way, technology itself is not sinful, but allowing it to harm our relationship with God and our spouse is sinful. And, therefore, we must practice self-control.

In Galatians 5:23, God tells us self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It is one of the attributes given to us by God when we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, and His Holy Spirit comes to live in us. However, for self-control to become stronger in our character, we must allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.

This will not happen in front of a television or computer screen—that is, unless the Bible is on that screen. The Holy Spirit teaches us and molds us as we pray and spend time reading and studying God’s Word. As we follow His teachings, we grow stronger in our walk with God. And as we seek Him together, our marriages will become stronger, too.

This is what God calls us to do in Ephesians 4:22-23: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (bold mine).

The key is to cut those things out of our lives completely that God forbids—the things that are sinful. We also must put into our lives the things that God commands us to do. Finally, we need to control and moderate the things Scripture does not specifically forbid but that we enjoy doing.

This moderation is directly related to self-control. It avoids extremes by setting limits.

Moderation is an uphill battle in our culture. We are inundated with excess. But God—through the Holy Spirit living in us—will empower us to choose moderation over indulgence. When we do not live in moderation and we lack self-control in any area of our lives, it indicates we have not allowed God to have full control of that area.

God’s Word instructs us about areas where we must practice self-control.

One such area is drinking alcoholic beverages. Ephesians 5:18 says: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” I choose not to drink alcoholic beverages at all. But if I did and I could not control my drinking and became drunk, it would be sin. I would be better off to cut it out of my life completely based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:27-30.

The same is true for anything else that harms our relationship with God and each other. We are one in marriage, so what harms one of us will negatively impact our spouse as well. We must help each other in areas in which we struggle. Therefore, if my wife struggles with something, I struggle with her. And if she makes a change in her life to deal with something, then I must also.

As an example, several years ago when my kidneys were failing, I had to eat a very restrictive diet. Sabra cooked special dishes for me and she ate them right along with me, even though I’m sure she would have preferred something more appetizing.

God has given us to each other in marriage to help each other in every way. And this includes in our areas of personal struggle.

To do this requires the one thing we never have to worry about controlling—love.

We can never have too much love for God. Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment. He answered without hesitation in Matthew 22:37: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”

We can also never love each other too much. Jesus added in Matthew 22:39: “‘And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Love for God and love for each other go hand-in-hand. We read in 1 John 4:19: We love because he first loved us.”

God didn’t just love us with a mushy, Hallmark card kind of love. His love for us is defined in 1 John 4:10-11: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

This kind of love for God and each other leads us to self-control. It leads us to make sacrifices to help each other in areas where we struggle. Paul wrote about it this way in 1 Corinthians 8:13: “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”

Paul also writes in Romans 14:21: “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” Paul’s point is clear. There is no sacrifice that is too great for us in order to show love to God and each other. And that is certainly true in our marriages.

The world tries to convince us we need more pleasure, more stuff, more entertainment…and on and on. These are all things Satan uses to distract us from what we really need.

All we really need is God. Everything else will follow. He promises to provide everything we need. He says in Romans 8:32: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (bold mine).

Paul says in Philippians 4:19-20: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

And Jesus promised in Matthew 6:33: “‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’” (bold mine).

God is all we need. When we make Him the center of our lives and marriage, He will give us self-control. As we ask Him to control every area of our lives, He will give us wisdom to use technology in good ways that benefit our relationship instead of harming it.

Together we can take control of technology instead of letting it take control of us.

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QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

♦   What did God teach you through this week’s post? How can you begin to apply it in your life and marriage? How will it help you have a stronger marriage?

♦   Is technology a distraction in your lives and marriage? How is it a distraction? Which technology devices are most distracting? Discuss things you might do to help each other overcome these distractions.

♦   How is technology helpful in your marriage? How can you use it to be more helpful and less distracting?

♦   How can you control technology in your life and marriage and not allow it to control you?

♦   Close your time together in prayer, asking God for a way to use technology to glorify Him and help each other. Ask Him to help you use technology in ways that it will enhance your relationship with Him and with each other.

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Next week we look at some specific steps from God’s Word we can take to help each other build self-control in our lives—including in our use of technology.

Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
David

Other posts in the DISTRACTIONS IN MARRIAGE series:
Part 1: Distractions Can Be Dangerous
Part 2: Three Steps to Avoid Their Harmful Effects
Part 4: Choosing What Is Best
Part 5: Setting Priorities
Part 6: Caring for Loved Ones

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Photo by Anggie via Lightstock.com. Used by permission.

About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.