Why do you have a Facebook account?
Have you ever really thought about it?
I hear all the time from pre-teens and younger teens that they can’t wait until their parents let them get a Facebook account, but when I ask why, their reasons are almost always some variation of “all my friends have one.” Not an extremely compelling reason for them to get one.
But would your answer be any different? Why did you sign up for Facebook? What is your purpose for signing on each day (or however often you sign on)? Do you even think you need a purpose for signing on? Or is your activity on Facebook without purpose, just going with whatever pops into your head at a given moment?
I see a lot of activity on Facebook from people claiming to be Christians that concerns me, especially from those in the high school and college age group. And since I’ve spent the better part of the last decade working with youth in some capacity, that’s a sizable portion of my friend list. Often times, I see no difference between the posts and comments of “Christian” young people and those who are unbelievers. This literally stirs up grief, frustration, and sometimes even anger depending on what is posted. And I can’t help but think that a big reason behind the status updates, pictures, links, and comments that seem so not-Christian is the fact that they are purposeless. And this is a big problem.
See, purposelessness leads to idleness, and idleness leads to sin. There’s an interesting passage in 1 Timothy 5 where Paul tells Timothy to encourage young widows to remarry. He gives several reasons why, but one of them is because without the purpose that families give, “they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1 Tim. 5:13). I can’t get around the fact that many of the high schoolers and college students that show up in my news feed are really nothing more than “idlers,… gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.” I hate writing that because I love them (and if you guys are reading this, seriously, I do love you) and want to think the best of them, but it’s true.
And this isn’t something that’s just “kids being kids” or “not a big deal.” Paul commanded Timothy to “set the believers an example in speech” (1 Tim. 4:12), which back then included both writing and speaking and today has to be expanded to include things like texting, tweeting, and posting on Facebook. It deals with how you use words in general, not just those that come out of your mouth.
Jesus even said that our idle words will result in judgment, declaring in Matthew 12:34-36,
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…”
That word careless is all about idleness. It’s the thing we say post without thinking, without purpose behind it. It’s the garbage that flows out of our mouths keyboards that we don’t even recognize as garbage. But whether we recognize it or not, we still must give an account for it.
So how do we fix this? If you are one of those who uses Facebook idly, how do you recognize whether you are using Facebook for good or evil? And if evil, how do you set about changing it?
1. Ask yourself what your purpose is. Seriously, write something down or say something out loud. Verbalize it so that you actually identify and recognize what your purpose is. Why do you have a Facebook account? What purpose does your account serve? Why do you post, like, link, and comment?
A few months ago, John Piper declared his purpose for tweeting in a blog post that responded to something the musician John Mayer had said. Piper wrote,
“Two aims drive my writing of Tweets: One is theological and the other is aesthetic. I aim to say important theological things. And I aim to say them in a compelling way. … The aim is to pack much into little. Big into small. Great into ordinary. Truth into language. God into space and time.”
I love that. I’m not saying that everyone’s purpose has to be that deep or that all of your posts have to have a theological reason behind them (I know mine don’t). But shouldn’t there be some reason? And if that reason isn’t good, shouldn’t you identify it before it turns into careless words for which you will have to give an account?
2. Examine your activity through the lens of Scripture. Read the following passages of Scripture and pray that the Holy Spirit will use them to convict you in areas where your Facebook activity falls short of his standard: Proverbs 10:19, 12:18, 12:25, 15:1, 17:27, 29:20; Matthew 5:21-30; John 13:34-35; Ephesians 4:29-5:4; Philippians 4:8-9; Colossians 3:8-9; 1 Timothy 4:12; Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Peter 3:15-17.
3. Compare everything to the Scriptural standard before posting it. Before you post, like, or comment on anything on Facebook, make sure it conforms to those verses listed above. Without being legalistic, I think there are clearly some guidelines in those verses that should regulate what we say online.
We should not use Facebook to:
- distort the truth;
- make crude jokes (guys, this includes sexual innuendos and jokes about homosexuality);
- lust after the opposite sex by highlighting their physical attributes, saying how hot a certain actor or actress is, etc.
- express anger and hatred toward others;
- slander or complain about others;
- post lyrics, poems, or quotes that undermine or are contrary to the truth of Scripture. (Those one-liners that you teenagers think are so profound are actually just worldly wisdom that is often untrue and/or unbiblical. If you want to post something truly profound that will have an impact and change lives, try posting Bible verses. [Isa. 55:10-11; Heb. 4:12-13])
We should use Facebook to:
- encourage one another;
- show love to one another;
- stir each other up to love and good works;
- highlight things worthy of praise;
- give a defense for the hope that is in us.
4. View Facebook as a means of testimony and witness. Sometimes I really think we forget that other people can see everything we put on Facebook. I see things posted that I know the person who posted them would never say or do publicly. For some reason people think Facebook gives anonymity to public things when it actually makes public those things which are private. Every time you put something on Facebook remember that:
- there are unbelievers who will view it as something that either confirms or undermines your faith. They will either see that God does clearly rule over every aspect of your life or they will see you as a hypocrite who says and does one thing in person but the complete opposite online or a “practical atheist,” someone who says God exists but lives as though he doesn’t.
- there are people who look up to you who will use your behavior on Facebook as an example. If people (younger siblings, classmates, etc.) see you as an example, they will imitate the wrong things you do just as readily as they will the right things you do.
- there are people older than you looking for signs of growth, maturity, leadership, etc. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to act appropriately, even online.
- there are people who don’t know your parents, teachers, siblings or whoever else you’re annoyed with or angry at who will take your words at face value. Their perception of the people in your life will be entirely built around what you say about them on Facebook.
People see what you do and say on Facebook, and they will (rightly or wrongly) judge you for it. Not only will you have to make an account of it on the day of judgment, but you might also end up having to give an account for it in this life. Be careful what you say.
I’ve been on this journey for a while myself, and I haven’t perfected the art of Facebook by any means. But if we are going to be a people who “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5), we need to carefully examine how we use Facebook. We need to use it for a purpose and not just for idle entertainment.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Cor. 10:31–11:1)