In the late 1930’s, a somewhat disenfranchised Francis Schaeffer was convinced the world was coming to an end. His mentor, Allan MacRae, counseled: “Such upheavals as we are now witnessing have occurred at many periods in history, although modern mechanical inventions make them cover a wider territory ritory within a shorter interval. Also, the radio and similar news-spreading spreading devices make us more immediately aware of what is going on.” (Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America). Schaeffer watched a revolution of both worldview and technology during his lifetime (1912-1984).
With the advent of social media, we are connected in ways that would have been unimaginable to previous generations. Due to technology and the explosion of social media, we are more immediately aware than folks in the 1930’s could have understood. The question is, are we using these tools in God honoring ways?
The book of Proverbs provides timeless wisdom that should influence every part of our lives. Social media is the water cooler. It’s where we exchange ideas. We must remember that we are just as responsible for what we type as what we say. Below I have provided 8 Proverbs that we will apply to social media (quotes from ESV). A couple of caveats are in order: one, the entire book is worth applying to social media. These verses are representative. Two, of course these verses don’t only apply in the arena of social media. Apply liberally in all areas of life for best results.
10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
The principle is simple. The more words that are spoken, the more likely it is one will sin. Often times your best strategy in an online debate is to stop typing.
Winston Churchill once said: “We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.”
11:12 Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.
I’m amazed at how bold many can be behind their screen. We forget sometimes that those we slam online are real people. We say things we would never say face to face. Ad hominem attacks are weak, senseless, and common. They are a last resort for one who doesn’t have a substantive argument or simply the default for a lazy thinker. But they are easy and accessible so often times we choose to belittle someone instead of engaging in an exchange of ideas.
12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.
I read this verse not long ago to my kids. The look on their faces was classic when they saw the word stupid was in the Bible. Look at who the stupid one is. The one who hates reproof, or correction.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to learn from our critics. Consider what Jonathan Edwards said:
“Those who revile us—though they do it from an unchristian spirit and in an unchristian manner—will usually identify the very areas where we are the most blameworthy.” (Searching Your Conscience)
Edwards reminds us that even those who intend us harm while arguing with an unloving tone can prove useful for us since they attack real weaknesses. Learn from them. Don’t be stupid, love reproof.
14:15 The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
Where to begin? Christian, facts are your friends. Take a moment before you “like and share” that post and see if it’s true. Believe it or not, some people put lies on the internet. I know, you’re shocked. If you read a quote that seems too good (or bad), it’s worth fact checking. With the tools available now (snopes, google) there’s no good reason why we can’t take a few minutes and make sure we aren’t spreading untruth.
15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Online banter escalates quickly. I used to love playing ping pong. Once one person hits the ball hard, the next person has to smack it back. The rally goes on until someone misses the table, hits the net, or smashes a winner. Harsh tones quickly turn into a rally of forehands until someone acts like a grown up and steps away. Resist the urge and turn away contention with a gentle answer.
17:28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
Sometimes your best strategy is to stay quiet. Proverbs is hard on the fool. They are
not viewed positively in the book and especially in chapter 17. But even the fool is considered wise if they will simply bite their tongue.
18:13 If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
18.17 The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
Immediate mob justice is rarely thoughtful. Outrage culture often replaces thoughtful response. We love to take a story and run with it before we hear, and that is to our shame. It’s amazing how multifaceted some stories are. Take time to learn, process, and figure out the other side before going off on your rant. Could you articulate the other side’s position on the issue or situation? If you can’t offer a fair explanation of the other side of the story, you probably aren’t in a position to comment. It’s amazing how arm chair pundits can go from Constitutional Law scholars to Islamic Scholars within one news cycle. Take time to learn more and share less. That is not to say forfeit your opinions, but it is to say some issues are complex and require more than a cursory snap judgment.
The tools of social media are powerful. Steward your online influence well. As Abraham Kuyper once said,
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
Christ is Lord of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too.