It’s hard to scroll through your Facebook feed for long without coming across hacks to make some area of your life more efficient—whether it’s cooking, dressing, organising or productivity. BuzzFeed even has a whole newsletter dedicated to upgrading your life, mostly through buying products which they claim will solve all your problems.
These hacks aren’t inherently bad. I’ve certainly benefited from some of them—like the tip to use a rubber glove to get traction when opening a stubborn jar. Without it, I’d never get to make spaghetti bolognese when my dad isn’t home. But I’m concerned about what the obsession with life hacks both reveals and changes about our hearts.
Symptoms of a bigger disease
Clickbait headlines announce a list of hacks that will “change your life”. The author of one article writes: “By tweaking little things in your daily life, it can make your life much more convenient!”. These articles are so popular because they promise us something we want: a life of increasing comfort and ease.
But this isn’t what our lives are meant to be centred around. The idol of comfort reveals a deeper obsession with ourselves. My fear is that this attitude is all too common among Christians—and I certainly see it in my own heart.
This is contrary to what Jesus teaches us about our lives: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)
I know I should be zealous to see the gospel go out to all nations, but too often I feel entitled to comfort. It’s somebody else’s job to do mission. Someone who is extroverted, so it’s easier for them to reach out to strangers. Someone who is married, so they get to take their support system with them. Anyone but me, because I wouldn’t be comfortable.
Paul urges the Philippian church to think like Jesus:
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:4–8)
Jesus had the textbook definition of comfort. He dwelt with his Father in heaven, enjoying a perfect relationship with him. No sin stood between them. But he set aside his rights when we rebelled against him. He came into our world, accepted all the pain and limitations and humanity, and allowed himself to be nailed to a cross to take on our sins. I doubt you’ll find that listed among the ‘Top 10 Hacks for the Best Day Ever’.
We too are meant to love each other in costly ways. Instead, I try to avoid all pain, waiting, inconvenience and discomfort. I feel like I deserve a certain level of ease. I certainly shouldn’t have to do more than what other people around me are doing.
But the Bible calls us to go out of our way for the sake of others: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Obeying God involves dying a thousand small deaths every day; making our lives more difficult if it’ll make things easier for someone else. If we are to walk with the man of sorrows who saved us, we too will be acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).
Covering up our sin
Life hacks can also be dangerous if they allow spiritual problems to masquerade as practical issues. While they appear harmless, they encourage our desire for quick-fixes. When I’m lazy and unproductive, I might look for the newest productivity hack or app to fix the issue. The underlying problem could be that I’m selfishly viewing my time as entirely my own, and failing to honour God by using it for the good of others.
We can hide serious sins underneath a veneer of perfection. Instead of opening up our homes to the needy and vulnerable, we obsess over keeping them organised and well-decorated. Examining our hearts is hard and humbling work. We prefer to do the easier thing. Even while writing this article, I was constantly tempted to clear out my email inbox. Life hacks encourage us to fix only simple problems, not the complicated ones in our hearts.
Sustained by joy
The third issue I see is that life hacks will simply not be enough in the long run. If we try to patch up the crumbling walls of our lives with a coat of paint, the whole building will soon cave in. We need something stronger to sustain us even when things aren’t picture-perfect.
How will we have zeal for mission when our lives are dedicated to comfort? I think we’re hindered by the messages the world is telling us—to earn more, consume more, and buy more in an attempt to chase the good life. Only a superior joy will enable us to live a different way, when Jesus satisfies our hearts more than a fat pay check or a cosy retirement. John Piper explains what drives everything he does:
…the joy I write to awaken is the sustaining strength of mercy, missions, and martyrdom…The key to endurance in the cause of self-sacrificing love is not heroic willpower, but deep, unshakable confidence that the joy we have tasted in fellowship with Christ will not disappoint us in death. (When I Don’t Desire God, pp. 20–21)
Only joy in Christ does this. It changes our hearts, so we desire to see a world that glorifies Jesus more than making our own lives comfortable. We should be spending our time and energy pursuing deeper joy in our Saviour, not in the things of this world.
As I’ve said, there’s nothing inherently sinful about life hacks. They can be useful—but keep watch on your heart. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that they will bring you ultimate ease, joy, and satisfaction. Find a better goal to spend your life on.