Last evening I was listening to a commentary discussing the amount of data being collected on each individual every day, and how that data can and will be used by artificial intelligence programs to impact many aspects of our lives. They discussed the possible problem of it being used in “big brother” fashion to control us, but also said that there would be so many benefits that “we would be a stupid society if we didn’t get these benefits”. It sounded very much like a repeat of Genesis 11:4 where the people said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves…”. I am not anti-science, but unless our research is guided by wisdom of the One who is the source of all knowledge, we find ourselves playing God as did those people at the Tower of Babel. What is true progress? Is it gathering and using every bit of data, trying every technique, looking down every avenue of investigation? Or is it growing in the knowledge of the One who created us? Apart from that there is no true progress.
We laud progress. Anyone who is 50 or older has seen great changes in technology, science, and medicine. We are not living in the same world we did even a few years ago. That progress has given us things which have been a benefit to many. However, that same progress has also caused a variety of social problems and issues that have been detrimental especially to our youth. Progress must have a spiritual and moral foundation if it is to be a true benefit. The only real progress is first in acknowledging the God who created us and judging whether the kind of progress we desire brings honor to Him, and His will for the world He made. Without that we are only building a Tower of Babel, a structure that leads to confusion.
I think about the cars we’ve had. The current vehicle is one a long series of cars over the years of our marriage. Today we have power windows, AC, remote door locks, and a few other bells that previous cars didn’t. With each trade we’ve gained a few gadgets that weren’t on previous ones. And then we think back, “How did we ever live without air conditioning, or endure having to lean over the passengers seat to crank down that window if we wanted it open?” (Yes, kids. Car windows used to have cranks on them!) But we did. Our life might have been a bit more difficult, but we survived, and it didn’t really hurt the quality of our life or the joy we had. This picture can be extended to many areas of life, and should help us meditate upon what is really important. What does our Lord say is central to life? “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) And that doesn’t depend upon powered car windows.
It is interesting to observe the changes we’ve experienced over many years. We love our cell phones, smart phones, and iPads that keep us in touch with others wherever we are. If we are without it for a day we feel lost. It was only a few years ago that we would ride through a town looking for a corner phone booth if we needed to make a call. Show a young person a dial telephone and he’ll wonder what it is. Many years ago people would go on a journey and be out of touch for months at a time. Our world has certainly changed. I’m not convinced it has all been for good. How do we measure change? Or a deeper question, what is our purpose in life? According to the the Westminster Catechism, our purpose is to love God and enjoy Him forever. If that is true, then change is measured by how it supports this purpose, or perhaps detracts from it. People before mass communication learned to love God deeply and share His love with many others. We won’t give up our cell phones, but we should keep our focus on the true purpose for which God has given us life.
It is easy to recite a litany of the worlds troubles. Jesus said that we would hear of wars and rumors of war, famines and earthquakes in various places. Besides these are the myriad of social ills, redefining marriage, killing our children, polluting our world, etc. We apply our technologies, our smart weapons, our years of learning, but the problems persist. We like to point to our progress in medicine, technology, and other fields, but we fight the same problems century after century, only with a modern veneer. The only progress possible is progress in the human heart, and only Jesus can bring that about. Until He returns, the world will not be at peace. But until He returns we can have His peace as we allow Him to touch and change our hearts. In one of the most fearful times for His disciples Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”(John 14:27) We can be at peace in the midst of this broken world, and we can extend that peace to others. The world’s ills will remain with us, but be of good cheer, Jesus has overcome the world. (John16:33)
It is easy to recite a litany of the world’s troubles. Jesus said that we would hear of wars and rumors of war, famines and earthquakes in various places. Besides these are the myriad of social ills, redefining marriage, killing our children, polluting our world, etc. We apply our technologies, our smart weapons, our years of learning, but the problems persist. We like to point to our progress, but we fight the same problems century after century, only with a modern veneer. The only progress possible is progress in the human heart, and only Jesus can bring that about. An article in a newsletter I receive monthly pointed out how we lift up democracy as the solution to the problems of nations around the world, but saying that democracy only works when it has a basis in the Christian Gospel. Human solution accomplish very little apart from the acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord over all. Until Christ returns the world will not be at peace. But until He returns we can have His peace as we allow Him to touch and change our hearts. The world’s ills will remain with us, but be of good cheer, Jesus has overcome the world. (Jn.16:33) And that begins with the world in us.
We are told that knowledge is increasing at a tremendous rate. We are learning so much more in so many different fields of research, but we must ask, what kind of knowledge is it? Oh, we certainly see the advances in medicine, technology, and so forth, but is this really progress? To someone suffering from cancer today as opposed to 50 years ago, it certainly is progress. We do not diminish the importance of these gains. However, the prophet Hosea said something 27 centuries ago that holds equal truth for today. “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”(4:6) The knowledge of which he speaks concerns the will and purpose of God for mankind, whom He created. Unfortunately, this is an area in which we have not grown. We may end deaths by cancer, but we will die, and then all of our human knowledge won’t count for much. We should not neglect our technological advances, but understand that they are not the ultimate of knowledge. Jesus said, “Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.(6:33)
This being April Fools Day, there will be no lack of pranks bandied about. It was interesting though, to do a Bible search of the words fool, foolish, and foolishness. They come up about 175 time throughout Scripture. Do you think maybe God is telling us something? We love to exalt human wisdom, our increase in knowledge, the growth of our technology, and everything we call progress. But is it really progress? The Apostle Paul wrote, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”(I Corinthians 1:20-21) The only real progress comes in understanding, and obeying our Lord. Every other right direction in life flows from this. And that is no April Fools joke!