The internet is a blessing and a curse. It puts an amount of information literally unimaginable to previous generations right at your fingertips. Almost every sermon preached in the developed world is available online (and that is both good and bad, as there are both good and bad sermons) these days. There is an enormous amount of the work of the great theologians and pastors of the past available online. More seminaries (again there are good and bad seminaries) are making video or audio recordings of their classes available online. And of course, there are also a wealth of good, sound, theological and apologetics blogs out there. And that is not even considering all that is available behind pay walls. But the internet is also full of gossip, conflict, tribalism, and false teaching not to mention things like online gambling and pornography. And there is of course the bugbear of social media. If there is an area of the Christian life where we really need to bring biblical wisdom to bear, it is in how we use the internet. With that in mind, I think we ought to give some consideration to Proverbs for the internet age.
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. – Proverbs 5:18-19
The internet provides an endless supply of places for a sinfully wandering eye to land, whether it is in a male or female head and whether that head belongs to someone who is married or single. And it is not just pornography. Of course, looking at pornography is sinful. And just about every pastor I know has ministered to those in its insidious grip and those deeply hurt because they are married to (or engaged to or dating) someone in its grip. (And it’s not just men either.)
But this proverb goes well beyond pornography. To delight in the wife of your youth means that they are the standard of desirability and beauty to the exclusion of all others. There is absolutely no reason to click on that slideshow of “Best and Worst (OK mostly best) Celebrity Beach Bodies” that is a regular feature on that conservative news website, because as far as you’re concerned your wife has the best beach body. You don’t need to click on that story about the starlet’s beach vacation or the Hollywood stars wild yacht party, because you are to delight (only) in your wife’s appearance and to be intoxicated by her love.
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. – Proverbs 19:11
Too many of us (and yes I am including myself and by us mean theologically conservative broadly reformed Christians) allow our blood to boil over things we read online. And not only do we allow ourselves to be angered, we start to argue. And if someone dares say (type) something snarky about us, our position or one of our favorite preachers/theologians we are often prone to let the guns (keyboard) blaze away. But if we apply this proverb to the online world, we wouldn’t take the bait. We wouldn’t get angry. And we wouldn’t feel the need to respond to every perceived slight.
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. – Proverbs 22:24-25
You know that blog or podcast that is always outraged by something that happened somewhere. Well, biblical wisdom says you might want to consider whether it is such a good idea to be a disciple (learner from) of someone (or a team of someones) given to anger. Philippians 4:8 says the things that are true, just, honorable, pure, lovely and worthy of praise are the things we should be thinking about. That guy who is always angry because some false teacher somewhere said something is not thinking on what is true, and you ought not listen to him. And that guy who is always angry that some believing elder or scholar somewhere phrased something in an imprecise way or did something that runs afoul of his personal convictions or preferences ought to be avoided, lest you too learn to be hyper critical. Quite frankly James 4:11-12 is the most ignored warning of Scripture in “online Christianity” and we should all take it to heart. (And I’m not quoting it because I really want you to look it up and see it on the page in your own Bible.)
Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears. – Proverbs 26:17
The third (or 17th) person into a fight never, ever makes things better, they always make things worse. If you don’t believe me, watch an NHL playoff game sometime. And the same goes for piling into an online argument. Whether on social media or the comments section of a blog, wisdom says when you see two (or more) people going at it, just move along. And by the way, I don’t think Solomon’s point here is that if you grab a stray dog by the ear you might get bit as much as it is it takes a special kind of dumb to grab a stray dog by the ear.
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. – Proverbs 6:6
I think for the internet age the HCSB translation of this proverb really hits home, “Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise.” Too many of us waste too much time online, especially during work hours. Whether it is social media, or online shopping or excessively checking your personal email or favorite news site, surfing the internet is probably not what your boss pays you for, and unless you are in vocational ministry you probably shouldn’t be spending a ton of time on the Christian blogoshere during working hour either. The expectations of employers are all different, some might allow you personal internet time, some these days may even encourage you to use social media, but whatever their expectations, you should do your level best to meet them. And if you have ever hurriedly changed what was on your computer screen when your boss rounded the corner, you are in sin (Eph 6:5-7).
I love the internet. It allows me to keep up with friends I probably won’t see again until heaven. It allows me to quickly access some of the best teaching and preaching in the world. It allows me to read out of print classics. And so much more. But if there is ever a place where I want to keep Proverbs at the front of my mind it is when I am behind the keyboard. When you are online you need all the wisdom you can get because you are bearing the name of Christ in a place filled with pitfalls.