Gluttony- it is a term normally used to refer to the excessive consumption of food and, while that use certainly has application to our Western culture, I am using the term today in reference to something other than food. We are gluttons of a great deal of things, but one that causes me great concern is our information gluttony. We live in a time and place where we are happily bombarded with more information in a day than most people, just two generations ago, were in a month, if not a lifetime. For sure, some information is helpful, (say, an early warning of a tsunami) but also, some is totally useless (#1mallrat “i m at the mall”). And just as there is good and bad information, there are good and bad implications to the abundance of information.
On the positive side, abundant and often easily obtained information can help us make informed decisions. However, there comes a point when information (and it’s greatly varying quality) becomes too much information. I imagine we have all been at the point when our “research” (a.k.a. google, bing, yahoo) serves only to overwhelm us with information and make the process of arriving at a decision harder. What do we make of it all? How do we sort it out? Who do we believe? When have I read enough opinions? For sure it’s true, there are as many opinions as there are noses– and today, we have a lot of noses!
Still, as a result of our information gluttony, we face an even greater problem than just how to sort it all out. It seems the whole process leads many to, often unwittingly, simply abandon even trying to sort it all out and instead just sit in the midst of the information and feast on the smorgasbord of perspective, picking what looks good regardless of wisdom. This problem is bigger than any single decision. Rather, information gluttony is impacting the whole idea that there is a process called discernment.
I am reminded here of the movie Ratatouille and a dialogue between brothers Emile and Remy:
Remy: [observing what Emile is eating] What is that?
Emile: [pause] I don’t really know.
Remy: You dunno… and you’re eating it?
Emile: You know, once you muscle your way past the
gag reflex, all kinds of possibilities open up.
Remy: This is what I’m talking about.
And that is what I am talking about, too. The constant glut of information has disarmed discernment’s equivalent of the gag reflex to the point we do not even realize we should have one! We have become too willing to consume without concern for the truth. It is often selfishness that replaces wisdom. And, for goodness sake, the church is by no means immune from this problem. There are some seriously crazy things happening in the church today that are having very negative impacts with only greater problems to come. Today, if ever, we need to recover the ability to discern that we not unwittingly ingest “good looking” poison. Or, as Proverbs 17:24 put it, we need to “keep wisdom in view” in order to sort through the glut of information available to us today.
A discerning person keeps wisdom in view,
but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.