Your Status Update Is A Fire!

The Apostle James had great concern for the Jewish Christians to whom he wrote, primarily that they would not be hearers of the Word of God only. Faith without action is dead, he writes. And so it is that if we only hear the Word of God but don’t then apply it to our lives then we evidence a pathetic, dare I say, disingenuous faith. Of course that is a primary concern for us here at Christ and Pop Culture as well. We don’t want to confess Christ is Lord of most of our lives but then when it comes to popular culture disregard him and his commands. This particular point was stressed to me most recently by something that I thoughtlessly wrote on Facebook.

I won’t repeat the insensitive comment here, but the whole occasion reminded me of James 3:1-12 where the apostle describes the power and danger of the tongue. Oddly enough he begins by saying that not many should become pastors because it is hard to control the tongue (the irony is not lost on me). He proceeds to give us some pictures, then, of how something small controls something big (a bit in a horse’s mouth, a rudder on a ship), and finally a picture of how a small spark can start a blazing forest fire. The point being that even though our words are small and our speech seemingly mundane, they are extremely powerful. Facebook has become a visible display of just how powerful words are.

Since my welcome to the world of Facebook, I have seen status updates describing horrible divorces, berating friends who betray trust, extolling the glory of last night’s drunken bash, and pointlessly demeaning others for their political views. These comments may (or may not) all have their place, but are we ready to call that place the public domain that is the World Wide Web? This is especially harmful when your friends, and those of who you offend, can read your status updates.

The problem updates don’t even have to be comments that are intentionally hurtful to others. Certainly that was not my intent. But consider how you might present yourself to the people with whom you are friends on facebook. If you don’t want Granny to know what you do don’t invite her to be your friend, or think carefully about what you post. And if you don’t care if Granny knows ask yourself how she will feel to learn of your ____.

James’ whole concern is that we be doers of God’s word, which tells us: If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue, but decieves his heart, this person’s religion is worthless (James 1:26). If you can praise God with your mouth one minute and curse your neighbor with it the next what does that say about your worship? This is the very question James asks and one we all need to consider as we update our status. Jesus tells us that out of the treasures of our heart the mouth speaks, so what does your status update say about what’s in your heart?

Now, of course this isn’t meant to be some legalistic statement about how everything you do on Facebook needs to be evangelistic. I suppose my Facebook would say more about my love for coffee than my love for Christ, but nothing we say or write should be thoughtless and without intention, James warns us of the danger. Your status update is like a fire, and it can set a blaze your “whole course of life.”

About Dave Dunham
  • http://goannatree.blogspot.com Goannatree

    Sometimes even if you are careful and mind how you talk about frustrations or difficult things going on in your life you can still offend people. I managed to last week without having any intention of doing so. It led to alot of emails and regrettably a decision that maybe we had different expectations of facebook as a medium and that maybe this was a place where we shouldn’t interact. This made me sad, but it also made me realise that as much as I try to live transparently I do need to be careful of the individual contexts of each of my relationships and recognise that I don’t see the world the same way as others around me. Facebook is somewhere to enjoy my friends and family and to interact over long distances, it isn’t somewhere for me to mouth off or to lash out, even if midly. Even if you’re careful on facebook you are, like in life, still not going to please everyone all of the time so i guess it matters which battles you choose to fight and when to stay silent. James’ words are appropriate….and apply not just to facebook but all forms of interaction!

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com The Dane

    If you don’t want Granny to know what you do don’t invite her to be your friend, or think carefully about what you post.

    There is a third option. One that takes a touch more work but one that may benefit more in the long run. Facebook has, dare I say, robust privacy settings. And it’s not difficult to use these to create a tailored interaction with your Facebook friends.

    I do a lot of work with teens. I also do a lot of work with people who would find my political views abhorrent. I also work for a company that is wildly dispensational. Understandably, not all of my Facebook statuses or Links will be wise to lay in front of members of these groups. So I create groups of these people.

    I have one called Block Party (people who I want never to see my posts, ever). I have one for Kids, one for Politically Intolerant, and one for Work People. In my settings, I default to having Block Party blocked at all times. Each post I write, however, allows me to customize the privacy settings for that individual post so that if I’m talking about sex or my feelings on soldiering or other things that I don’t think parents would generally appreciate their kids hearing from me, under my custom settings for that post, I just add Kids. Et voila! I am safe.

    That doesn’t address the bridle-your-tongue aspect of the article so much as it does the time-and-place aspect. But maybe it’ll help you in the future. I sure wish I would have seen that feature maybe three months before I did—my friends list would be noticeably larger if I had.

  • peter bartlett

    Peter Edward Bartlett thinks that people should not judge his facebook statuses
    (About an hour ago) (Become a fan)

    jk jk. I wholeheartedly agree. Something about the fact that you aren’t saying your status directly to your friends makes people feel like they have complete freedom to say whatever comes to their mind. I can think of no better way to alienate someone than to say something hurtful (directly or indirectly) on facebook where the conflict takes on a public nature, many times causing friends to take sides in a sense.

    Another frustrating abuse is that people seem to think that statuses are a good place for sharing very deep personal/emotional things, causing a chain reaction of sympathy and bad advice from their fb friends. Too many people seem to actually use this as a conduit for their emotions and hurts, which is not a good habit to learn, not to mention the damage that can be done by the inevitable sarcastic response.

  • David Dunham

    That’s a good comment Peter. I think you’re right about our emotional hurts being broadcast there. There’s some degree to which it really undermineds the sensitive nature of such comments to post them in such a context.

  • http://billonotes.com Bill O’Neill

    Great article (and one in which I shared on my FB page. Can’t wait for the reax! I do hope it stirs-up some emotion among my brothers and sisters in Christ who, like me, can use FB to a fault. Jesus is the answer, so, what’s the question? What’s the burden, the worry? How do believers versus non-believers tackle worry?

    What we may all see is FB as a confluence of both saved and unsaved people in our lives. And for that very reason Christians must see the power and risk in that. Much is expected of us and I am talking about our witness here. How we approach daily struggles, idle chatter, urges to grumble, it all matters and it is all important in bringing seekers, non-believers, or those out of fellowship with Jesus either closer or further apart. I fear that the tendency may be to disregard this all as over-blown. I don’t think so. Our witness matters.
    Bill O’Neill, Vermont

  • http://www.lightherlamp.com Jaycee

    My sentiments exactly…about status updates! The tongue is like the rudder of a ship, and if it cannot be tamed it will hurt ourselves and others.


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