A Wise Guide
One of the pitfalls for humanity through the ages since the Fall has been the sinful use of the tongue. Our mouths can be used for great good or evil, but they are very hard to tame. Which is why James says:
“For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” -James 3:7-8
It is very easy for us to glance over what damage a sinfully harsh word, brash thought, slanderous remark, or evil speech of any kind can do. However, now we live in a digital age where every soul can post whatsoever they desire to the entire world. This has not created the sin problem in terms of our speech, rather, it has taken a microphone and amplified the already existing issue. Whatever the sinful issue a person struggles with in their flesh with their speech it is now set on a platform for all to see. Meaning that a man who struggles to jump to conclusions without evidence labeling harsh judgments on all will now post those opinions on Facebook for the world to see, or to his private buddies in a group, thereby impacting many through his own sinfulness. We need help and guidance for knowing how to speak. Our call to be a witness for Christ necessitates we use our words in a way that honors Him. The Proverbs are full of rich counsel for us in this area!
The Word Fitly Spoken
One of the keys to learning to use the tongue well is to understand it was made for the glory of God. Just as with everything else, how we use our mouths is supposed to testify to the brilliance of the Creator. This does not mean we simply sing praise and worship songs all day, no it means we also learn to use our speech in a manner that is uplifting to Him as we go through each situation in daily life. Proverbs 25:11 says:
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” -Proverbs 25:11
The concept of this passage is for us to speak in such a way that is beautiful because the words are suitably chosen for the occasion. Having a harsh tone while telling someone you love them is not in alignment with the type of speech needed for the situation. Likewise, softly whispering to a runaway child when they are about to walk across a busy traffic lane is not suited either. Our goal is to speak the right words in the right way so that we might “fitly” speak the truth. Some will take this wrongly apply this text and back away from sharing hard truth because in their view it is not “fitly” in any circumstance. Yet, that neglects the reality that the word must not merely be used “fitly” it must actually be “spoken.” The very next verse says:
“Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.”
This text, and many others, gives us full license to rebuke someone when they are in error. They call upon us to see the need there, but this rebuke is not to be flippantly or sarcastically given. It is to be “wise” according to the passage. Wisdom faithfully applies biblical truth in the situation seeking God’s glory. Our temptation on social media is to completely forgo the “wise” component of this verse and instead shoot from the hip. Angrily berating individuals with whom we disagree, making unsubstantiated claims, or simply making a sarcastic comment on someone’s post is not conducive to applying wisdom in the situation. Maybe instead of hammering on a brother with whom you publicly disagree you try to have a private conversation first. There is a time and place for public disagreement (Galatians 2:11-14) yet the normative approach is to begin privately (Mathew 18:15-20). Therefore, when public disagreement is necessary, great care must be taken in order to ensure substantiated evidence is used and an approach that seeks to give a wise reproof. Too often, we are propelled by a draw to gain followers when we go through a public disagreement with someone. That is not the biblical motivation for using our speech, and we must not run away from that motivation just because we are using a digital platform.
Guarding Your Mouth
“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”
One of the dangers in life is to believe someone is an expert on something when in reality they do not have much skill in that area at all. This Proverb guides us to pay careful attention to our mouth, guarding it instead of just opening it wide and spouting thoughtlessly. A pitfall we can give in to on social media, or anywhere else, is to be the armchair quarterback on a wide variety of topics about which we have no idea. Someone becomes a political expert overnight just because of a pithy slogan. A man who does not have rich biblical theology is immediately heralded as an expert, or at least thinks he is one. In actuality, the book of Jude characterizes false teachers by saying:
“But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” -Jude 10
Speaking about things regarding which one has no clue may seem like a slight mistake, but in actuality, it shows a lack of humility before God. A false teacher will tread that path because they are walking in rebellion and do not want to submit to the revelation of God. Instead, we as Christians are called to exercise our humble dependence on the Lord by coming to Him as the source of wisdom and knowledge. That reality will free us from the endless treadmill of having to pile in on every social media debate. Because the truth is that none of us have the sum total of knowledge about every single topic. Someone who has a humble heart before God realizes He alone has that kind of perfect knowledge. This means we are wise to keep our mouths guarded before needlessly spouting off.
Use Your Voice For That Which is Good
“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” -Proverbs 31:8-9
Here King Lemuel is drawing on the teaching of his godly mother calling on kings to use their mouths to speak out for those who are in need of help. Drawing an application point, we are not only to avoid sins with our speech but to actually use it to do good in this world. In other words, don’t just think about how you can steer clear from sin, consider what is actually good and post it, or speak it. Use your social media to point people to the goodness of Christ and His Word. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves like the unborn. Speak on that which is good and true and beautiful and urge people to consider it. We need to build the habit as Christians of using digital platforms, and every other realm of life, to open our mouths to declare that which is good. May God give us the grace to apply wisdom on social media as we seek to wield the Sword in the realm for the glory of our King!