Should We Expect More from Our Teenagers?

My oldest daughter was talking to me yesterday about how some of her friends buy their likes on Instagram. Perhaps I didn’t give the most godly answer when I responded, “That is the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard!” Solee explained that they didn’t actually pay for the likes, but they downloaded an app, where in exchange for liking other photos, you get guaranteed likes in return. You build your likes by strategically investing your liking, but there is a limit to how many likes you can give an hour before being charged a fee. So I went for a more Christian-sounding rejoinder, “What does it reveal about the condition of your heart if you are measuring your value by the number of likes you acquire on a social media site? And as concerning that is, what would ever inspire anyone to solicit fake likes?” By this time, my middle school daughter joined in, and they both agreed. They started naming names of people that they know who petition for likes in these sketchy ways. What the heck is a like, really? They’re as trivial as you get, and yet, have been turned into a commodity of status. Have likes become a teenager’s source of validation? Is it just teenagers? I’m afraid not. Some adults are just as caught up in the game of like. It’s bad enough to see it played out in social media, reality television, and  whatever other means we may use to be liked. But the recent revelation of the debacle in which we have pastors using church money to hire a service to manipulate the system and guarantee their books will make the NY Times best seller’s lists, suggests we’ve reached a whole new sophisticated like. This is what I thought about as my daughters were sharing the reality of the superficial relationships they find themselves in. Where is the hope when we have to wonder about the character of the best-selling pastor? What’s the integrity in a like? What’s the worth of a 14-year-old with 236 likes? What is the real value of a book on the best seller’s list? And the character of the pastor who wrote it? Or the people buying into the hype? Because there is a message being sold, but it isn’t the gospel. I told my girls that their meaningfulness will not be measured in likes. As they were walking away, I reminded them, “Smiles are still free!” A simple human gesture that communicates so much more. And to those who still think that deceiving the public by paying for a best-seller is okay if it gets the gospel into more hands, I would like to remind you that the gospel is still free too. God doesn’t need our help by getting him on some list. Those of us who do write to encourage and instruct in the Christian faith should know that the value of our work won’t be measured in likes. Much of it will be offensive to the popular notions of spiritual health. We should all want our work to promote the glory of God. A bus driver does that by doing his job well with honor. So does a housewife, a sales rep, and an engineer. If we expect them to glorify God by laboring in their vocation with a smile and genuine concern for their neighbor, then we shouldn’t lower our standards for those who want to teach us from his Word. And if we do, should we expect more from our teenagers?