Something has been weighing on me for a while. There seems to be a major disconnect between biblical wisdom and the way many Christians use social media. In fact, there are times when I think that the typical Christian’s social media presence could be a great example of the fool described in various ways in the book of Proverbs. Quick to speak. Slow to listen. Slanderous. Backbiting. Braggadocious. Unteachable. Lazy. What a boon it would be to the church, particularly the younger generation, if we could unplug from social media and dive into the Biblical wisdom literature. I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen, so I’d like to give a couple of thoughts from Proverbs for us to consider as we engage with others online.
All opinions are not equally valid or valuable. This is assumed by the existence of the book of Proverbs. In ch9, we read about a voice of wisdom and a voice of folly, two voices offering very different perspectives on everything. They are not both valid. They are not both valuable. One leads to life, the other to death.
Our culture doesn’t think in terms of wisdom and foolishness because it tends to reject absolutes. Rather, there is a current cultural ideal that all opinions are to be equally valued. That itself is folly. There is such a thing as wisdom and you don’t attain it just by being born. Your opinion isn’t helpful just because you live on the earth and you are sincere. You can very easily be sincerely wrong, and to the extent that your worldview is not shaped by the Scriptures, you will be. And that opinion will be sincerely detrimental to others.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10). If there is such a thing as wisdom and foolishness, I should be very sober about what I throw out into the ether. Am I pushing wisdom or foolishness? Life or death? My pulse does not give automatic value to whatever I have to say on social media. Nor does the mere fact that I am a Christian. The things I say must be true and loving in order to be valuable.
Sharing your opinion is not inherently virtuous; withholding it might be. This follows from the first point. Our culture seems to take it that it is incumbent upon the individual to inform the universe of his views. This is so often adopted by professing believers that I almost feel it’s necessary to inform folks…it really is okay not to share your opinion about everything. You don’t have to do it.
Proverbs paints the picture of a person who can’t help but opine all the time. It calls him a fool (Prov 18:2). There’s a reason for this connection between constant opining and foolishness. If you are talking all the time, you can’t listen and gain wisdom. You are a self-perpetuating fool. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion (Prov. 18:2).
Being heard is an honor. When we rush to add to the collective noise on any issue, we’re taking honor before humility. This is the opposite of what Proverbs prescribes. The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor (Prov. 15:33, cf 18:12, 22:4).
It’s possible that the paucity of wisdom on social media among Christians is due to the fact that those who have wisdom are too prudent to engage in online bantering, while the younger generation doesn’t have the wisdom to know how foolish they are. In an ideal world, the frequency of one’s posting would be proportional to one’s spiritual maturity. The youngest, who as it stands say more than anyone else, would be the quietest, and the oldest would share the most, giving wisdom to those who need it so badly.
Seeking wisdom should be a higher priority than sharing it. This is the flow of the river of Proverbs. You could say that the whole book is dedicated to the search for wisdom and to warning against the pitfalls of foolishness. The book has nothing but negative things to say about “babbling fools” (10:8, 10:10, 20:19) and positive things about those who listen well to correction and instruction (1:33, 7:24, 8:32; 12:15, 15:31, 19:20). Read Proverbs. Read the Puritans. There is much to hear; not much that needs to be said.
Prudence waits. Social media makes it way too easy to respond quickly in anger. Don’t give in. A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back (Prov. 29:11). If you’re not sure if you should respond, wait. If you find yourself making a mistake time and again, consider removing yourself altogether. There is no benefit to social media that warrants sinning against others. You'll be better off without social media and social media will be better off without you.
The impulse to build an audience is a danger sign. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom (Prov. 11:2). The kingdom-building aspect of social media is a poison to humility and can destroy relationships. Be content being unknown and un-“liked” in the pursuit of wisdom and holiness.
Some might say, “but I just want to build a ministry.” I’d say let that ministry come to you. You don’t need to build it. And if you find yourself consumed by numbers of followers and likes and posts and articles and links and link-backs, you may be getting caught in something that is counter productive spiritually. The people I know whose ministries are most far-reaching and helpful to others did nothing to start those or cause them to expand. It happened organically as they just ministered to people.
Consider this a call to think biblically about how we use social media. Are we swimming against the stream of biblical wisdom? Are we the picture of foolishness? Ought we not be different from the world in our deportment online? Food for thought.