Anyone who even loosely pays attention to social media knows that it comes with its fair share of narcissism. Self-promotion, selfies and the lack of personal accountability are all prominent aspects of social media environments. But what people often fail to recognize is that social media and greater technological advancement are also helping people to live more fully in Jesus as well.
Take for instance the ALS ice bucket challenge that has been going on for the past few weeks. The concept is simple: Challenge someone to pour a bucket of ice water over his or her head and/or donate to the ALS Association. When you take the challenge, you film yourself getting drenched (usually with a smartphone) and then post it to social media along with naming the next few people you challenge to do the same.
This challenge has gone viral, and everyone from celebrities to children has been getting involved. So much so that the ALS association has received well more than their usual yearly donations so far. Not only that, but now millions of people who never knew anything about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease) are aware of the challenges that those who suffer from ALS face.
This social media phenomenon, I would contend, is also doing something that many haven't considered. It is allowing people to more fully flourish as human beings. And it is doing so because it is uniting us in community to combat the evil that is disease. And this would not have been possible, in this way, without the advancements and benefits of technology.
Technology is allowing human beings to find community in new intergenerational ways. So many of my friends who have taken the ALS challenge have recruited children to pour the ice water over them. As you can imagine this gives the children significant joy. But it also does something far more important; it models charitable and self-sacrificial behavior.
While many people do give charitably, it doesn't necessarily happen as often as one might think. Even many Christians who are committed to the teachings of Jesus and who actively read the Scriptures struggle to give anywhere near the Biblical mandate to tithe 10 percent of their income. But, technology is providing an opportunity for people to hold one another accountable in loving ways to be more charitable. The value of this for the world, in my opinion, cannot be understated.
Of even more significance than the money that is being raised through technological means is the fact that technology is helping to unite humanity through shared life-giving endeavors. People of every background imaginable are participating in these types of events. In so doing they are exemplifying what the kingdom of God is meant to look like -- an inclusive community based in love.
Are there skeptics and naysayers to such efforts? Of course there are -- but the critique isn't about the technology. Among the loudest critics are those who contend that the use of so much water is an environmental waste. This is a legitimate point considering that much of the United States and the world are currently experiencing droughts.
But the larger giving community has used technology to counter these critiques as well. They have challenged those who have raised concerns to come up with better alternatives that elevate awareness and promote charitable giving. And the critics have responded with, you guessed it, additional charitable options for giving using technology.
All of this has occurred because human beings have chosen to use the tools of technological advancement for good. And, in so doing, I think humanity has managed to come a little bit closer to understanding Jesus' intent in saying "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
The Rev. Dr. Christopher Benek is the associate pastor of family ministries at Providence Presbyterian Church. Subscribe to his blog at www.christopherbenek.com.