Skip to main content

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. You are no doubt familiar with this saying which has been used through the years by parents and school marms to keep children mindful of their purposes and use of time.

What does it mean?

She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. Proverbs 31:13

Eager hands can find many things to do. Given expectations and parameters, hands can be mighty tools for work. Hands can move objects and accomplish much. They can create and bring to life ideas. They can communicate comfort and compassion. They can caress and love. They can administer healing and offer precise, trained help. They can reach to give and to receive. They can gesture greetings, expound upon words, and even speak an entire language in the case of Sign. They can serve. They can pray. Hands can be holy instruments used to worship and praise God.

But idle hands are a different story. Hands that have no direct purpose or plan will quickly find something to occupy them. If this old saying is true, it is in the idle hands that the most possibilities for harm and sin abound. Satan loves hands that have no purpose. They are an opportunity for the heart to act upon its wanton cravings. I could make an equal or perhaps longer list of ways that hands can wound and hurt. From gestures to violence to self-serving sins, hands can just as readily be used to express the deep seeds of a heart’s rebellion against God.

And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. Romans 6:13

Following the practice of many others, I too have benefited from choosing a theme word to guide a new year.

This year, I am focusing on “putting on” Eager Hands and “putting off” what I am calling Idol Hands. Rather than idle, unpurposed hands (which are hard to have when raising a family), I see I quickly turn to idol hands. By this I mean my little pocket idol, my phone.

Technology and images certainly draw my love and affections away from my Father and affect how I purpose to use my time. I confess I can waste hours each day using my hands to scroll and read, so therefore I end up with both idle hands and idol hands: stealing time from my family and the Lord or from using my hands to accomplish things that produce real fruit. I may be alone in this, but I sense it is a real thing for many people.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. ! Corinthians 6:12

I think the end of this verse captures the heart of the problem. But I will not be mastered by anything!

I don’t mean to make idolatry trite by calling a phone a pocket idol. If it is an idol, examples of tearing down idols in scripture are not trite. Think of Gideon and Josiah. They were ruthless in tearing down idols and eliminating the temptation. Perhaps that is what is needed.

On the other hand a phone is a tool. Modern technology is a means of effectively getting work accomplished in our culture today. Yet it is a fairly new phenomenon and it’s negative impact is certainly being felt in our own lives and our families.

I need to be its master rather that than it my master. If and when I begin to serve it, it has become an idol to me and I need to cast it aside.

Maybe you see my sin plainly in this post and see plainly the steps I should take to overcome it. I invite you to kindly add to the comments for discussion about technology and idolatry if you are inclined. 

How do you master technology? What helps you at work with eager hands? How can we walk in the light of God’s word in this emerging and ever-changing arena? 

In Christ’s love, erika

Leave a Reply