Never Bored Again
I was talking with a thirty-something last night and he and I both concluded we never feel bored. Maybe that’s not surprising. There’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. There’s podcasts, blogs, and Google searches. There are 300 hours of new video uploaded to Youtube–every minute, more than 150,000 new Reddit posts and submissions each day, and at the bottom of every Google News category there’s a link that says, “More Sci/Tech stories,” or “More Sports stories,” or “More U.S. stories,” or “More World stories.”
There’s more amazing information available to occupy our attention than ever before. (And I haven’t even touched on TV, music, movies, and video games.)
I love living at this point in the time-space continuum where we can have such an incredible amount of information available to us. I love doing research. I love checking out Youtube videos, articles, and subreddits in my areas of interest. But there’s a catch.
The Cyber-Inertia Induced Orbit
The catch happens when we become so taken with, so caught up in, our information and entertainment that we go from one source of information, to the next, then to the next, and the next, and the next, and the next: day, after day, after day. The catch is that this cycle can become so familiar, our neural pathways can become so established in this behavior, that a sort of cyber-inertia puts us in an orbit away from things more important. A distance develops. A distance from important relationships. And truth too. And grace. God’s truth and grace.
John the one who Jesus loved wrote,
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
“Grace and truth.” Jesus was full to the overflowing with both. But we don’t receive God’s grace without God’s truth. Our relationship with Him, the most important person in our life, the most important person in existence, the most important relationship we have suffers without His truth.
A Duke University Professor’s Honest Truth (About Dishonesty)
There’s a Duke University professor named Dan Ariely who did extensive research and experiments on dishonesty. In one experiment he gave people 20 math questions and offered to pay them for each question they answered. Their only problem was time. Because although the problems were easy to solve they were only given enough time to solve about 4 of the 20 problems.
At the end of the experiment they were instructed to go to the front of the room, shred their paper, and then verbally tell the proctor how many problems they solved correctly. What the participants didn’t know was that the shredding machine only shredded the margins of their papers. And the actual number of correctly solved problems was compared to the stated number of correctly solved problems for each subject.
Just under 70% lied.
More than 30,000 people were tested in various forms of this experiment. One of the variations included an extra question that was given before the math problems. The question they were required to answer was to recall the ten commandments from the Old Testament scriptures. (No one was able to recall all ten.) And when subjects were asked to recall the ten commandments before solving the math problems for money: there was no cheating. 0%. None. No cheating at all.
After this and many other experiments (a signed acknowledgement of a school honor code at the beginning of the experiment yielded the same results) Ariely concluded that the human moral compass doesn’t function well without recent reminders.
There are implications from this research for you and for me as Christians. Without regular reminders our moral compass’s won’t function. As human being’s we have a need to spend time in the scriptures, and in church, and in prayer. All else being equal, spending time reading the Bible, and praying, and attending church will without question make us better human beings. I’m reminded of what Jesus’ disciple Peter wrote about reminders: “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.” (2 Peter 1:12 NASB)
You might be saying to yourself right now, “Yes but, I went to church twice a week for ten years so, I’ve got it down. Or I’ve read through the Bible five times so, I don’t need that anymore.”
I think Peter knew something by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that Ariely learned from his research. Peter is saying in 2 Peter 1:12, having a good Biblical foundation is a really great thing to have, but we still need to be regularly reminded. Ariely found that subjects in his experiments who went through a week long indoctrination that included learning an honor code didn’t fair any better in his experiments than those who didn’t receive the week long honor code training. It was the recent reminders that made all the difference.
But there’s another reason for Christian reminders.
The Impact Of God’s Truth On Experiencing God’s Grace
Jesus went in to eat with one of the Pharisees one day, a Pharisee named Simon. And while he was reclined at the table an adulterous woman came in with an alabaster vial of ointment. Weeping, she wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Then she anointed Jesus’ feet with the ointment. And then she kissed Jesus’ feet continually.
The Pharisee was appalled. And Jesus knew it.
So Jesus said to the Pharisee: Simon, a moneylender had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other fifty. When they couldn’t pay he forgave the debt of both. Now which one of them will love him more?
The Pharisee said: I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the larger debt.
Jesus said: You’re right. Then Jesus turned to the woman and said, Do you see this woman? I entered your house and you gave me no water to wash my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
The difference between the Pharisee and the woman was the woman had a greater realization of the truth, the truth of her sin, or her debt. She had a better handle on that truth than did the Pharisee. Now one way of attaining a great awareness of the truth of our sin is to commit a great sin. But we know there are destructive consequences associated with that method. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) So another way of attaining a great awareness of our sin, without the destructive consequences, is to be reminded, regularly.
Ariely is big on regular recent reminders. And he recognizes the implications those reminders from his research have concerning religion. He devotes a chapter in his book on the topic. Jesus’ disciple Peter went on to say in his second epistle: “I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder…” In other words, as long as I live I’ll continue to remind you what God has said and done. (2 Peter 1:13)
We all like to think we don’t need these reminders. But the scriptures and the research say otherwise. Given the admonitions in the Bible and the scientific research, you might want to ask yourself some questions. “When was my most recent reminder? When was the last time I was in the scriptures? When was the last time I attended church? When was the last time I prayed? Which of these have I done recently and which have I not? Which of these do I do regularly and which do I not?”
Then recognize the importance of the one who loves you enough to die for you. And leave that information/entertainment orbit. Change course and surrender yourself to Christ. Go to the scriptures, to church, and to prayer in response to his love for you.
He longs for you to. Like the father of the prodigal son, when he sees you coming, he’ll run to you.
Read the rest of the story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and find out about the impact her awareness of the truth of her sin had on her experiencing Jesus’ grace. (Luke 7:36-50)
Change course and find out for yourself how Jesus’ truth in your life will result in a greater measure of His grace.
More of His truth results in more of His grace.
Please don’t take my word for it. Seek His truth and find out for yourself.
Dan Ariely, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves, Harper Perennial, 2013
DisHonesty The Truth About Lies Documentary – Video
Image via Jason Eppink – Creative Commons