A web of wisdom: social media to the glory of God #6

Having trawled through the following . . .

. . . we come to the end:

9. Train and restrain your appetites.
  • He who earnestly seeks good finds favour, but trouble will come to him who seeks evil. (Prv 11.27)
  • An evildoer gives heed to false lips; a liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue. (Prv 17.4)
  • The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body. (Prv 18.8 cf. 26.22)
  • The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. (Prv 18.15)
  • The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbour finds no favour in his eyes. (Prv 21.10)

We need to do this in the real world so that we are equipped for the online realm. Think about what you want and why you engage in social media in the way that you do. What contributions do you enjoy and what links to you click on and what patterns are you a part of and what trends do you follow? Are you seeking what is good and delighting in what is pure, or do you find yourself revelling in what is empty, lascivious, malicious and cruel? Do you enjoy the exposures and failures of others? Are you hooked on gossip? (Not worldly gossip, of course, that would be . . . well, worldly - no, you are merely keeping abreast of matters in the evangelical world.) Are your appetites and contributions Christlike? If they are, you will help starve those who trade in filth and frivolity of their market. We must decide now that we will have no part in such things: we cannot afford to wait until the options are immediately before us on the screen.

10. Cultivate humility.

  • When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom. (Prv 11.2)
  • Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished. (Prv 16.5)
  • Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man? (Prv 20.6)
  • Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the Lord see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him. (Prv 24.17-18)
  • Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips. (Prv 27.2)
  • A man's pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honour. (Prv 29.23)
  • If you have been foolish in exalting yourself, or if you have devised evil, put your hand on your mouth. (Prv 30.32)

Do not be obsessed with measuring your petty progress and your ephemeral fame. Numbers can be deadly, especially if we become enslaved to them. How many friends do I have? What about him or her? How many views? How many retweets? We are being trained to think of the whole environment as some great arena for a straight competition in which numbers are the register of success or failure, influence or irrelevance. Do not use social media as a platform for your own promotion or to build your own reputation. I understand that you may be under some right obligation (contractual or felt) to draw attention to kingdom work you have been or will be involved in, and I appreciate that we ought to be sufficiently committed to the truth to which we cling that we are willing to make it known even at the risk of appearing self-serving. That said, it is frankly sickening how many men (some of whom make criticising others part of their stock-in-trade) manage to spend a great deal of their time mentioning that they have written such-and-such a book, recommending their own work shamelessly, linking to sweet things others have said about them, and retweeting anything with their name in it. Set out to exalt Christ, esteeming others more highly than yourself. Do not seek out applause and attention, nor angle for compliments and flattery: it is as sad to see someone post a stream of photos at his or her most seemingly-attractive in the hopes of getting all those gushing responses as it is to see the gushing responses flowing on demand. Do not proclaim your good deeds: some environments provide a good space for seeking prayer and rendering praise, the exchange of information, but might there be an ulterior motive? Some lack even the delicacy of the parodies of British DJs from a bygone age, Smashie and Nicey, who made it quite clear in as public a forum as possible that they did not wish to speak of "all the work I do for charidee." Information-sharing can be profitable; self-promotion is reprehensible (see Mt 6.1-4). Let your social media use serve God and others, and not yourself.

In conclusion, whatever you do in this sphere, remember the impact that it has on you, your church, and your Lord, and choose it and use it to the glory of God. Look first to yourself, being slow to judge others (Mt 7.1-5; Rom 14.4), and be especially wary of imputing evil motives to brothers (1Cor 13.4-7). Do not presume upon your spiritual safety (1Cor 10.12). Let this be one proportionate dimension -  not the first or only one - of a life in pursuit of likeness to Jesus Christ. Remember what is at stake (Mk 9.43-50), and that heaven and hell hang in some measure upon the choices you make while floating in the electronic ether. It is better to be thought a Luddite nobody than to be a damned technocrat, better to be a slow adopter than a fool without brakes. If your online engagement is dragging your soul down to hell, then it would be more profitable for you to cut up the cables and cast away the wi-fi than to be up-to-date with all the latest trends and technology even as you descend to the pit. Simply put, if something cannot be used to the glory of God, then do not use it, and do not let anyone tell you that you are redeeming the culture - you are not, you are corrupting your soul. Furthermore, then, if there is a need, repent of your sin and make restitution in the same spheres in which you sinned (Lk 19.8), and then set out in dependence upon God to put away what you cannot use for God's glory once and for all, and to use what you can, if you can, when you can and as you can for the honour and praise of his great name.