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Good Thoughts and Your Computer

Playing computer games is a common pastime for many young people. Unfortunately, there are pitfalls to some cyber fun.

by Vince Szymkowiak

icon arrowA 13-year-old goes into his bedroom and turns on his computer. Pretty typical so far. Within a few seconds, he sends a fictitious representation of himself out into cyberspace. This fictitious character, created by our 13-year-old friend, is a criminal. The criminal decides to rob a bank, and in the process shoots four people. This teenager spends one hour playing this game, enjoying every minute, and makes up various crime scenarios. Another hour goes by and homework that evening suffers.

imageHarmless make-believe? Not really. The scenario described is, in fact, a real trend as teenagers enter the world of cyberspace. According to a recent U.S. News & World Report article (May 21, 2007, p. 66), some are creating "avatars" (or virtual representative of themselves) and using the computer to instruct their avatar to do just about anything.

The article mentions a 15-year-old who pretended that her avatar was a "cyberprostitute." The immoral behavior in this "parallel life" has been rationalized away as harmless because it was only make believe.

What does the Bible say about pretending to harm others? And what does the Bible say about acting out an imaginary life of prostitution? Is it just harmless fun?

Thoughts are important

God's Word is very plain in this regard. God clearly explains that we are responsible for all of the thoughts and attitudes that come through our minds. Evil thoughts should be replaced by good thoughts before these thoughts become sin. Harmful attitudes should also be replaced by wholesome attitudes.

God tells us we are to cast down "arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5, emphasis added). Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." And Jesus made it clear that dwelling on wrong thoughts in one's mind is sin (compare Matthew 5:28).

The real person, the one we really are, is made up of the sum total of our innermost thoughts. We are responsible for our thoughts, no matter how makebelieve they may seem to be.

Bad thoughts often come into our minds, seemingly out of nowhere. The Bible refers to these thoughts as "fiery darts" thrown at us by the devil (Ephesians 6:16). The devil did so with Judas: "The devil ... put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot ... to betray Him" (John 13:2). Judas, instead of repenting of those thoughts and throwing them out of his mind, dwelt on them and let them grow into a plan. Then he carried out the plan of betraying Jesus. He should have rejected those bad thoughts immediately!

The book of James tells us that we all are tempted and that if we continue to desire that bad temptation, it will give birth to sin, which, if not repented of, results in death (James 1:12-15). We are responsible for our thoughts; we must cast any and every evil thought out of our minds before it festers.

Keys to overcoming

One good way to overcome bad thoughts is to replace them with good thoughts. Romans 12:21 tells us, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Think on positive things. Get some exercise. Listen to good music. Even petting the family dog can help us reject negative thoughts!

Exercise restraint when you use the Internet. You may think no one is watching you as you click on various Web sites, but truly God and His angels see all that you do. Avoid the porn sites. Get the software to block them. Don't make friends with strangers in some chat room just because they sound so genuine. They could actually be predators who may try to meet you. Don't create avatars that break the Ten Commandments. Don't even enter the world of cyber make believe.

God urges us to always keep our thoughts pure, to think on things that are true and good (Philippians 4:8). Godly thinking leads to positive behavior and a happy life. Negative thinking leads to negative behavior and a depressing, unhappy life.

Above all, we need to strive to please God every day. As the Psalms say, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart [the thoughts in my mind] be acceptable in Your sight" (Psalm 19:14).

And if you have a fantasy avatar that is involved in bank robbery, prostitution or other sin, why not get on your computer and delete it? VT

About the Author
Vince Szymkowiak is a father and the pastor of United Church of God congregations in St. Louis and Rolla, Missouri, and Fairview Heights, Illinois. Comments or Questions
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