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Living Generously, Sharing Faithfully

Auditing Your Heavenly Data


As you evaluate your life data, does it reflect the values of heaven?

By Heidi Baumgartner, Washington Conference communication director

Every day with every interaction or transaction online or offline, we leave a little trail of “data cookie crumbs.” These crumbs of evidence can be studied to detect trends, habits, and associations.

Maybe this data trail reveals that you prefer a certain burrito establishment or clothing store, spend an abundance of time surfing your favorite social media site, or express your interests, hobbies, affiliations, loyalties or preferences. Maybe the data trail shows how frequently you exercise, practice healthy habits, or maintain your weight. There are thousands upon thousands of data points based on little or big decisions we make every day.

Data scientists study this information to help businesses market you with relevant information that you are likely to connect with. It is an implicit trust relationship that we don’t normally think too much about. We trust that an app or website transaction with a company or organization is going to respect our information and not use it to harm us.

But then that trust can be broken. We see this with any data hacking type event where that implicit trust relationship becomes explicit. We saw this recently with Facebook’s data privacy breach and even more recently this week with Orbitz announcing that hackers may have had access to personal data for more than 880,000 accounts, according to Market Watch.

It’s easy to feel violated in these situations. Maybe you’ve felt angry, frustrated, or skeptical. Maybe you didn’t care—this isn’t the first time we’ve seen data violations, and it’s probably not the last.

Maybe you feel worried. It’s OK to review your online profiles, check your privacy settings, update your password, use two-factor authentication, change your habits, and/or other security best practices. It’s OK to also log off for a while and invest in offline relationships with your family and friends.

Here’s the reality for us as Christ-followers: Heaven’s data collection is bigger than anything Google, Facebook, or any company can dream about.

If the data of my life was audited, what would it say? In the mix of “well done, my good and faithful servant” interactions (Matt. 25:21) are also conversations where I needed to seek forgiveness for words or actions that were unfitly said or done.

Philippians 4:8, a well-known and often-quoted verse, gives solid advice for how to cultivate God-honoring data in our lives:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think (post, share, talk) about such things.

Philippians 4:8

My hope and prayer is that the data file of my life shows that I love God and His people…and that I grew in the process. I wish the same for you as your audit your heavenly data file, and see how God wants you to grow.