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6 Wrong Reasons to Check Your Phone in the Morning

Our phones now go wherever we go—which is everywhere. And that means most of us sleep with our phones. In the bedroom, our phone wakes us up, tracks our sleep patterns and makes us available in the event of an emergency.

All these benefits are wonderful. The problem comes when our phone is within arm’s reach and we grab it out of habit to check email and social media in our half-conscious state of sleep inertia—before our groggy eyes can even fully open.

In our survey of 8,000 readers of desiringGod.org, over half of you (54 percent) admit to checking your smartphone within minutes of waking up on a typical morning.

Then we asked whether you are more likely to check email and social media before or after your spiritual disciplines on a typical morning, 73 percent of you said before. Here’s the breakdown by age and gender.

We don’t need charts to know we are quick to Facebook and slow to God, and this impulse is a problem if John Piper is right when he says, “I feel like I have to get saved every morning. I wake up and the devil is sitting on my face.”

That’s a startling way to talk about the daily challenge of the Christian life.

Put another way, whatever we focus our hearts on first in the morning will shape our entire day.

So why are we so quick to check email and social media in the morning, and so slow to spend intentional time with God in his word and prayer? And can we find a better way forward in the pages of Scripture?

I asked John Piper. What follows is an edited and abbreviated transcript of what he said (which will be part of an Ask Pastor John episode next month).

Why are we so prone to click on our phones before we do almost anything else? I thought of six possible reasons, which came out of analyzing my heart and temptations.

It seems to me that all of these six things are rooted in sin rather than in the desire to serve others and savor God. And I put it like that because I do think the Great Commandment sets the agenda for our mornings and our midday and our evening.

We are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength when we wake up in the morning. And we are to prepare ourselves to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22.37–40″>Matthew 22:37–40).

Very few of us wake up with our whole soul spring-loaded to love God and love people. This disposition takes some refocusing—to put it mildly—by means of the word of God and prayer.

So here are my six guesses for why so many of us are drawn almost addictively to consult with our phones when we wake up in the morning. The first three I call candy motives. The second three I call avoidance motives.

Reason 1: Novelty Candy

We simply love to hear what is new in the world and new among our friends. What happened since we last glanced at the world? Most of us like to be the first one to know something, and then we don’t have to assume the humble posture of being told something that smart and savvy and on-the-ball people already know.

Then maybe we can assume the role of being the informer, rather than the poor benighted people that need to be informed about what happened and if they were smart enough they would have been on their social media earlier.

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Tony Reinke serves as the editorial and research assistant to C.J. Mahaney. He wrote a book called Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Crossway). It will be published in September 2011. In the book he addresses four main topics: (1) why Christians prioritize book reading in the first place, (2) how to personally select the best books to read, (3) tips and tricks on how to go about reading them, and (4) how to overcome common challenges to book reading.