Many things are in abundance these days, but often it seems like wisdom is not one of them. 😉 In a world where opinions are tossed like confetti, and we’re one tap away from sharing a thought or snapshot of our lives instantly — how do we make sure we’re doing so in wisdom?
In the middle school I used to teach at, I sometimes saw a poster that read, “Before you share, T.H.I.N.K.! Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?” I think these guidelines are a great start. Could we, though, find a passage from scripture to guide us in what we say online (and in everything we do)? I’m sure there are very many passages we could use, but here is one:
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
— James 3:13-18
If we want to be wise in what we share online, here are some takeaways from James to help us.
— Godly wisdom is displayed through good conduct and meekness. Think of Jesus: He was thoughtful of others, always helping, a washer of feet, someone who focused his time in serving other people, a person not interested in serving himself. Am I following Jesus’ example of good conduct and meekness? If not, I am not living in godly wisdom, and the life I’m living may negate the words I say.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…
— Philippians 2:3-7
— Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition do not produce godly wisdom. In fact, these heart issues are described as unspiritual, demonic, and the root of every vile practice. Is my online sharing an attempt to serve others, or is it the fruit of some inner jealousy or discontent I’m harboring? We read in 1 Corinthians 13 that “love does not envy or boast,” and according to James, wisdom doesn’t either.
— The wisdom from above is…
Sexual purity might be our first thought here, and while that would certainly be included (and relevant in today’s world), it also would include pure motives. Do I have an underlying desire in what I’m sharing here to garner attention, to throw a dart at someone, or to portray a particular image about myself? Or are my motives pure — to be helpful or encouraging or to spread joy or to share Gospel truth?
Is my intention in sharing this to promote peace or division? Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers” and told his disciples that people would know they were his followers by the love they showed for one another. Bitter arguments over things not eternally important are not helpful in this end.
Let’s note that being a peacemaker is not the same as sweeping problems under the rug. Sometimes conflict is necessary in the effort to bring about peace. There were plenty of times in His ministry when He spoke needed truth and others were upset. But these conversations were always regarding spiritual matters; He never argued about petty things, and He always spoke in perfect wisdom and love for the individual soul.
Also notice the verse at the end of our passage from James: peacemakers will reap a harvest of righteousness.
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I think it can be particularly challenging to be gentle online because those non-verbal cues are absent. This means that we must be extra careful to use gentle words. If I can’t be gentle, I probably should not speak up. Or I should wait until later, when my strong emotions have subsided and when I can speak calmly and gently.
- Open to reason.
Am I being reasonable? Does my point of view make sense, scripturally and practically? Am I willing willing to listen with an open mind to those with another opinion? Is it possible that I could be wrong? (Hint: it is always possible.) 🙂
- Full of mercy and good fruits.
This goes back to the first point; wisdom is displayed through acts of service. Wisdom is FULL of mercy, FULL of good fruits. A wise person is one whose life is characterized by humble service to other people. Does my life reflect this?
Here’s another one that I think is extra hard online. We tend to join groups of like-minded people and garner approval from friends who think like we do. But as I Christian, I must ask myself: am I showing love, kindness, and respect to everyone in the things I post online, including those with whom I disagree?
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory… If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin…”
— James 2:1, 8-9a
Do the things I post come from a sincere heart? Do I truly love people, truly believe the things I profess to believe, truly live the life I’m portraying?
Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
— Joshua 24:14
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
— 1 Peter 1:22
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
— 1 John 3:18
So, the next time you’re wondering, “to post or not to post?”, remember James 3. May all we do — online and offline — come from the wisdom of God’s Word.
Header photo credit: Amelia Bartlett via Unsplash
Footer photo credit (with inserted text): Yura Fresh via Unsplash