FIRST-PERSON: Our double-edged smartphones

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- Your smartphone can impact your financial health beyond the monthly service bill.

Smartphones are everywhere. According to Pew Research, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. This is more than double the 35 percent ownership in 2011.

Many of us cannot remember what life was like before our smartphone. Just the thought of losing or breaking our phone sends us into a state of panic.

Smartphones have been a double-edged sword for most of us. We find them useful and harmful at the same time. This can be true as it relates to our financial health. Sometimes they can help. But sometimes they can harm.

First, let's consider how they can help us manage our money.

Mobile giving

A checkbook is no longer necessary to give. Smartphones provide a number of ways churches and other non-profits can receive donations. Text giving continues to increase in popularity. Several nonprofits have apps through which you can give. And for those organizations that do not have an app, you can still give by accessing their website through your phone's browser. We can now respond to God's call on our lives to be generous right away.

Mobile banking

Many banks offer apps for smartphones. They offer quick and convenient ways to check account balances and pay bills. For those banks that do not offer an app, you can still manage your money through their website on your phone.

Budgeting apps

There are many great apps out there to help you keep track of your spending. A quick look at your budget prior to a purchase can be the difference between getting into debt or staying out of debt. Mint, EveryDollar and Mvelopes are a few good budgeting app options.

Price comparison

Smartphones help us find the best deals. With just a few searches, we are able to make sure that we do not spend more than we have to for a product.

But smartphones also can be harmful to our finances. Here are a few examples:

Keeping up with the Joneses

No longer do we observe the lifestyle of those in our neighborhood and workplace. Social media allows us to witness the filtered lifestyle of our friends and acquaintances around the nation and world. We see their houses, cars, clothes and vacations. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a state of a dissatisfaction with our own lifestyle. And a person who is continually dissatisfied with his or her lifestyle often is a person who is continually in debt.

Impulse purchasing

We don't even have to walk over to our computers to make a purchase. We just pull out our phone and press a few buttons and what we want will arrive on the doorstep within a day or so. Smartphones eliminate any delay between the initial want and the act of purchasing.

Decrease in productivity

We spend a lot of time on our phones. Often, it is time wasted. We can easily find our inattentiveness leading to a lack of productivity at work that hurts our income and can lead to job loss. We can waste time on things that are not helpful and ignore the ways a phone can be helpful to us.

Furthermore, our smartphones also can hurt our spiritual health. Issues like wasted time and comparing ourselves to others get at the heart of our security -- are we secure in Christ or in some lesser distraction? We need to consider these hurtful implications of smartphones in relation to our spiritual health and, ultimately, to the church's Gospel advancement.

The Great Commission is the command to go throughout the whole world, preaching the Gospel to others. Don't let your smartphone allow you to waste precious time on insignificant comforts that lead you further from others knowing and experiencing the love of Christ.

Art Rainer is vice president for institutional advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of "The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God's Design" and "The Minister's Salary: And Other Challenges in Ministry Finance" and coauthor with Thom S. Rainer of "Simple Life: Time, Relationships, Money, God." This article first appeared at ArtRainer.com.
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