Note from Randy Alcorn: Tim Challies writes one of my favorite blogs (www.challies.com), and this one contains wise and much needed guidelines for all of us who post online.
There are many who doubt or downplay the relevance of the Old Testament to our times. Those people have probably never taken the time to read the book of Proverbs. I read from Proverbs almost every day and I am continually amazed at just how relevant this book is. It seems that wisdom is timeless. The lessons David taught Solomon speak to myself and my children as much as they did to the men and women of ancient Israel. The wisdom of God given to Solomon continues to ring loud and clear in my heart.
If Solomon were alive today and we were to ask him how we are to relate to one another in this digital world, if we were to ask him how we can honor God in our use of all these social media available to us today, here is how he might respond.
Count to ten before posting, sharing, sending, submitting. “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (29:20). How many arguments could be avoided and how many relationships saved if people were only a little less hasty with their words? Before posting an article or before replying to a Facebook status, it is always (always!) a good idea to re-read what you have written and consider if your words accurately express your feelings and if expressing such feelings is necessary and edifying. And while I’m on the topic, a spell-check doesn’t hurt either.
Leave the fool to his folly. “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself” (26:4). There are times when it is best to leave a foolish person to his own devices rather than to try to change him. Sometimes it is best just to leave him alone rather than providing him more ammunition to work with. This means that it may be best to ignore the troll, to leave a rebuke unanswered, than to bait him and to suffer his wrath.
Expose folly. “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (26:5). Here it is—undeniable proof that the Bible contradicts itself! Are we to answer a fool according to his folly or not? Evidently this “contradiction” is deliberate and is in the Bible to show that there is no absolute law in this situation. There are times when folly must be exposed, either if the fool is one you believe is honestly seeking after wisdom, or if his folly will damage others. If a fool is impacting others, drawing them into his foolishness, he must be exposed for the sake of the church’s health.
Know when to walk away. “If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet” (29:9). There are times when you need to walk away instead of carrying on an argument. Foolish people have no real desire to learn or to be wise. Instead, they only seek opportunities to loudly proclaim the folly. Walk away so you can have peace. Shut down, log off, erase—do what you need to.
Be careful what you read. “Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool” (26:8). Be careful whose words you read and whose wisdom you trust. Foolish men may seem wise, but they will still lead others astray. If you give honor to a foolish man by reading and soaking in his words, you are as foolish as a person who binds his stone in a sling, rendering the sling useless and leaving himself defenseless.
Avoid the gossiper. “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” (29:22). There are many web sites, blogs and Twitter accounts dedicated almost entirely to gossip, to sharing what is dishonorable rather than what is noble. Avoid these people and their gossip!
Be humble. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips” (27:2). “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor” (29:23). Let others praise you. If you never receive praise from anyone, especially from those who are wise, it may be a good time to examine your heart and examine if you are walking in the ways of wisdom. Those who are humble and lowly in spirit will receive honor while the arrogant will be brought low.
Mind your own business. “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears” (26:17). If you have ever grabbed a dog by the ears you know it will inevitably bring trouble. Grabbing a strange dog by the ears will bring even more trouble. Stay out of other people’s fights rather than wading into them as if they are your own. There may be times to wade into a theological dispute or to try to mediate a disagreement in the blogosphere, but wisdom would usually tell you to mind your own business.
Don’t be a troublemaker. “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling” (26:27). Those who exist only to bring trouble to others will pay a price. And unfortunately, on the Internet there are many of these people. Don’t be one!
Examine why you write. “A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike” (27:14). The proverb speaks of a quarrelsome wife, but it could as easily apply to anyone. If you are writing merely to be quarrelsome or because you enjoy an argument, perhaps it is best to find something else to do. “As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife” (26:21). Do not be the kind of person who kindles strife for his own enjoyment.
Be careful what you teach. “Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit, and the blameless will have a godly inheritance” (28:10). Those who choose to teach others accept a grave responsibility; if they mislead others, they must expect that there will be consequences. Be careful what you teach, what you share, what beliefs you express. Remember that your words are public and that they may remain available forever.
Walk with the Lord. “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” (28:26). And here is the key to everything else. Trust in the Lord rather than in yourself. Walk with the Lord and in the ways of wisdom taught in the pages of the Bible. Be a wise man or woman of the Word, rather than a fool who trusts in his own wisdom (or lack thereof). Arm yourself with spiritual maturity, with true wisdom, before venturing into the world of social media.
Tim Challies is a husband to Aileen and a father to three children. He serves as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. He is a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press, and has written five books.
Photo by Allen White on Christianpics.co