Best of Daily Reflections: Future Shock
“Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!”
In 1970, futurist Alvin Toffler published his bestselling book, Future Shock. His main point was that the increasing rate of change in our world is shocking us, creating widespread stress and confusion. According to Toffler, people in 1970 were suffering from “information overload,” a phrase that entered common discourse through Toffler’s influence. If we were struggling with future shock in 1970, how much more is that true today, when the digital revolution has accelerated the pace of change many times over.
In Luke 12, Jesus used a “future shock” communication strategy to grab people’s attention and confront them with the crucial choices they faced in their present existence. He spoke both of God’s ultimate future (the age to come) and of each person’s individual future (death and what lies beyond). The shock of the future was meant to make us live differently today, in anticipation of what is to come.
Luke 12 begins with Jesus’ warning about “the yeast of the Pharisees,” namely, their hypocrisy (12:1). In the rapidly approaching future, hypocrisy will be abolished when “all that is secret will be made known to all.” As Jesus explains, “Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!”
Talk about future shock! Think about this for a moment. How would you like it if everything you ever said in secret was “shouted from the housetops for all to hear”? I need to tell you that this is a most unsettling thought for me. I am not especially inclined to gossip, and I tend not to speak poorly of people behind their backs, but I have said many things about others that I would not want them to hear. I have made jokes that put others down. All to often I have spoken in a way I never would speak if I thought my secrets were going to be revealed.
But that’s exactly what Jesus promises. Now, it’s true that apocalyptic language (language that uncovers the future) is often hyperbolic and figurative. My secrets might not literally be shouted from housetops. But, still, Jesus is clearly saying that in the future my supposedly confidential comments will be revealed. The point is not to make me fearful about the future, however. Rather, it’s to shock me into living differently right now. Today, I need to speak in private as if my words were going to be broadcast to all. That certainly changes things for me. How about for you?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How does the “shock” of the future revelation of your secret words impact you? If you thought of your words as potentially public, how might this change the way you speak?
PRAYER: Well, the shock worked, Lord. As I reflect upon the image of my words being shouted from the rooftops, I am struck by how easily I can say things that ought not to be said. It can be a word of complaint. It might be putting down someone else. It might be a juicy word of gossip. How easily I forget that you see all things, and that my words are not really spoke in secret at all.
Help me, dear Lord, to use my words carefully. May I speak the truth in love, so as to build up your body. May I refrain from negativity, complaining, and gossip. May I never say about a person what I would not say to that person. By your Spirit, may my mouth be a channel of truth, grace, and peace. Amen.
P.S. from Mark
If the topic of this reflection grabs your attention, you may be interested in a blog series I wrote called: Privacy and God: From Facebook to a Biblical Theology of Privacy.