Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Social Media and Temptations to Sin

Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, the list is endless and growing. The options and opportunities for engaging in online social media are legion. To be sure, as Tim Challies points out in The Next Story, technology is not in and of itself either good or bad. Christians must engage deliberately and discerningly in an effort to redeem the opportunities afforded by living in the age we do.

It must be stressed again, however, that this engagement must be thoughtful. If we say, ‘I just like it’ and then go full-steam, headlong into the world of facebook, twitter, or whatever, we will be setting ourselves up for disaster.

Here are just a few of the immediate temptations we need to be aware of that come hand-in-hand with participation in social media:

Better to Say Something Than Nothing

All social media experts (and SEO folk for you bloggers) will tell you that dead air is death. You’ll lose your drawing power and your readership if you don’t post frequently.

Now, of course, when they say that, they mean ‘post something good frequently.’ But most of us are not Tim Challies (who has now blogged for 2,839 consecutive days). We simply cannot produce good content that regularly. So, we just post something rather than nothing.

But consider:

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Prov 17.28)

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov 10.19)

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (Prov 13.3)

Instant Broadcast of Words

Status updates, comments, replies, recommendations, text messages, ‘instant’ messages from your phone, tablet, or other mobile device… they all hang on the notion of communicating in a flash. But your words, once published, are permanent.

But consider:

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Prov 18.2)

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Prov 18.13)

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Prov 29.20)

Confusing Talking (Typing?) with Doing

When using social media for just causes we can think that we’re actually accomplishing something meaningful. More often than not, however, we’re just placating our own consciences and rallying people who already agreed with us. The temptation here can be to think that we’re doing when all we’re really doing is talking.

But consider:

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. (Prov 14.23)

The Disembodiment of the Medium

Online we function as much as ‘avatars’ as we do real people. We can create and live in any persona we so choose. There are many downsides to that. One of them is that we tend to look at other people as disembodied avatars as well. We can be tempted to denounce things much more strongly and put people down much more absolutely when they are just an image on a screen rather than the image of the living God standing right in front of us.

But consider:

… no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3.8-10)

The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. (Prov 16.21) {Note: Emphasis mine. Isn’t it interesting how so many people who prize discernment really aren’t all that big on sweetness of speech?}

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. (Prov 18.6)

Friends, Followers, and Feed-Readers

Much of what happens in the social media world is measured by some kind of ‘analytics.’ Friends in Facebook, followers in Twitter, subscribers in the blog-world, etc. It is tempting to measure our success by how many people ‘like’ what we write or ‘retweet’ what we post. We can find value in having people follow us, becoming our ‘online disciples’ of sorts.

But consider Jesus’s description of the Pharisees who set themselves up as teachers:

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matt 23:5-12)

In All That We Do…

In all that we do, whether we eat or drink tweet or blog, let us do so to the glory of God, carefully considering:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Prov 18.21)

Any more?

Have you noticed more temptations to sin using social media? What other Scriptures are relevant?

16 Comments

  1. Easy. Quarrel about words:
    "charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers." 2 Tim 2:14 and also 16

    thank you Julian for your article!

    • Julian

      8 August, 2011 at 2:33 pm

      Amen and amen! Lots of thoughts in dealing with theological controversy and focusing on the gospel in 1 Tim as well!

      Thanks, Elaine!

      • I just want to add that I mentioned the above thinking about myself first. I am learning to stay away from such things. Also, the proverbs that you posted are very convicting. Recently I was gently rebuked by a great man of God who mentioned Prov. 15:1 (that's the short version of the story).

        • Julian

          8 August, 2011 at 10:23 pm

          Elaine, I totally assumed you were talking about yourself first. Which made me totally free to apply it to myself first. 🙂

          I have a feeling I'd like to hear the long version of that story someday. I love how God uses his people to shape and sharpen us. 🙂

  2. I had the amazing privilege of sitting under the ministry of Jim Jenkins for 10 months many years ago (he was director and chaplain at His Mansion Ministries in New Hampshire, a ministry of discipleship to young adults with life controlling issues and I was serving there). He is very much a student of wisdom litereature and had much to say about media, as well as about the tongue. God enabled him to speak so powerfully on James 3 and the tongue that the whole property was speechless for an hour after and throughout lunch (quite something considering all of us who were there and what sins we were prone to). His main aim seemed to be to teach each of us to quiet our inner worlds from the distractions of media, whatever they may be, and choose instead to listen to God, His Word and walk with Him. To my shame, I haven't learned from him half as well as I would have liked. Anyway, my husband wanted to know how he taught, so last night we searched sermon audio and found these 2 messages by him. I highly recommend a listen to him. His messages are the fruit of much meditation. Paul Washer speaks of people who have the aroma of Christ about them, and having lived on the same property as Jim Jenkins for 10 months, I would say he is such a man. I praise God that He has spoken many things through this man to me, and taught me to be still before Him. http://www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?SpeakerOnly

  3. Danger of Knee Jerk Reactions to posts or updates.
    James 1:19 ¶ Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

  4. Thanks Julian, this is very helpful.

  5. Great post, applying scripture to a "new" issue.

    Along with your last point, I think it is easy to be puffed up with pride. By nature, social media involves creating some content and sharing it. We can do that with a servant's heart thinking "let me share this to encourage others" or with a proud attitude, wanting to put our knowledge/experience on display. The technology just makes it easier to get that message out there and sometimes quantify our impact. Even tracking/follower stats can lead to praising God for the numbers impacted or to praising ourselves for the numbers we think we impact.

  6. Thank you for these wise words. It seems that it's also easy for me to be a "busybody" using social media, as well as be lazy, spending too much time on facebook and blogs, neglecting my work.

    1 Thess 4:11 "…and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you."

  7. You might be interested in these two pieces:

    Facebook photos: the good, the bad and the ugly http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/facebo
    When pastors update and tweet (Do’s and Don’ts) http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/when-p

  8. As a Pastor researching Scriptures to guide our prayer for Media at our National Day of Prayer Service, I ran across this posting. Thanks so much for the provocative thoughts! Always facinating to see how God is working in the hearts and minds of believers is other parts of the faith I'm not familiar with. Thanks so much!

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