Christians truly are a unique bunch. We are in the world, but not of it. We strive to serve our Lord Jesus Christ well in the midst of a world that is hostile to Him and to His message. We know we have been called out of this world because, in reality, we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom.
And yet, we do not hide our faith. We do not silence our message. We desire that the world know we are Christians so that it may hear the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins found in Jesus Christ alone. So at times we must utilize the tools of the world in order to aid us in our mission. And this is okay, so long as the execution of the task does not subsequently result in sin or tarnish the name of Christ.
There are several problems that tend to arise, however, in the Christian's endeavor to accomplish this task. The primary of these is that, even as Christians, we are still sinners, and we are thus prone to the same pride and idolatry that enslave the world. Of course, we seek to mortify these sins each time they rise up to tempt us, but we nevertheless are bound to fail on occasion. And when we do succumb to the narcissism that defines the world, we ultimately bring shame upon our own Christian witness, we cast doubt upon the Church, and above all, we undermine the name of Christ.
This is most evident in the professing Christian's use of social media. Now, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, Vimeo, etc., can actually be marvelous tools for the Kingdom (though it seems dubious to include Instagram and Pinterest among these helpful tools), and many people have successfully endeavored to use them for that purpose. Obviously this writer has no objection to the use of these, else this blog would not exist. But, as in all things, we must be wise in where and how we walk, even digitally.
There appears to be a growing tendency among professing Christians to ignorantly utilize social media for the celebration of oneself. In our attempts to appear spiritual and humble, we ultimately end up exclaiming, "Hey! Look at me! Look at how amazing I am! Look at how much more spiritual I am than you! Look at how much cuter my children are than yours; I must be more blessed! Look at how much more precious my 'quiet time' is!"
Stop it. Please, can we just stop it? Can we please stop using social media to thinly veil our self-love and conceit in threadbare spiritual language? Can we please stop using Christ to ultimately draw attention to ourselves? This is narcissism at its finest and, Christian, if you love the Lord, you must examine your social media self and your motivation.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to share a photo of your family or the sunset on Facebook. The problem arises when we use these mediums to exalt ourselves, but do so under the guise of our faith. What are some ways we are guilty of exploiting our faith in order to draw attention to ourselves?
The hashtag (#), once reserved solely for Twitter, is now also a popular way to "tag" posts on Facebook and other social media. Typically, the hashtag in question—the culprit hashtag, if you will—is #blessed. Using a hashtag is fine in and of itself; however, it is the text that accompanies the hashtag that may be the evidence of our sin. Consider how it may be used to exhibit false humility:
Car ran out of gas, walked 10 miles to work, heel broke on the way. Still arrived on time. Boss gave me a raise. #blessed
The Family and/or Selfie Photos
Yes, we all understand—you think your family is the most spectacular, beautiful, perfect family on the planet. You think your kids have so broken the adorable meter that the rest of us need to see pictures of their every waking moment, every single day (along with a play-by-play of their daily activities, including play time, potty time, and meals). And the reason we need to see all of this is because your family is a demonstration of God's goodness and grace, and who wouldn't want to celebrate that, right? So we plaster our Facebook page with pictures of our children, along with a caption to the effect of:
Susie started her day with breakfast, then played with Play-doh, then babbled baby talk for 20 minutes while watching me clean the kitchen. Such a #blessing!
Or we utilize what is known as the "selfie." In other words, we post pictures of ourselves. Lots of them. Of course, we are only doing this so that we can share the amazing blessing God gave us that day...right?
Beautiful weather today, so I went outside and built a house. #Busy #Blessing #Building
The Staged Devotional Photos
Whatever you call it, we all treasure our "quiet time," or devotional time, or study time in the Word. And we should treasure it and enjoy it and linger over it. But should we share it with the world? Do we need everyone to see how precious our Bible study time is? And do we really think that people believe that it is as well-staged as we make it appear to be in our Facebook photos?
All of us have seen these photos. The steaming cup of coffee or tea, the Bible, the commentary/devotional/Greek New Testament, and the journal with the perfectly placed pen lying atop it. All peacefully resting on a perfectly clean table overlooking the backyard, where the sun shines through the window, illuminating the passage of Scripture that is being studied. Or at least, that is how it appears. And then the caption:
Sweet time of study, prayer, and reflection in the Word of God this morning. #Blessed
Dear reader, these things do not need to be sinful in and of themselves, but consider this: when we display false humility that actually is boasting in our circumstances (or in how we handled an undesirable circumstance), when pictures of ourselves (or our family) dominate our timelines, or when we put our (false) piety on display, what are we actually seeking? Are we really commenting on and thanking God for the blessings He has given us? Or are we seeking for our hundreds of closest Facebook "friends" to push the ever-desirable "Like" button and give our self-esteem a little boost in the process? I propose that if we are honest with ourselves, more often than not, it is the latter. This means that we are seeking the admiration and approval of men, displayed in these mediums by how many "Likes" or "Favorites" or "Shares" we can acquire on a particular post or picture.
This is not to deny that there are times when circumstances truly have demonstrated the great blessing and goodness of God, and that by sharing these others may praise Him with us, but beloved, let us examine our motivation before pressing "Post" or "Publish." As your cursor hovers over that button, let the Word of God fill your mind and truly influence your motivation so that whatever you do may be truly done unto the glory of God.
Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matt 6:1, 5-6)
*This post originally appeared here.