menu

Humility, Deception, and Arrogance in the Internet Age

Humility, Deception, and Arrogance in the Internet Age November 8, 2021

I know it’s a risk to start off a post with controversy, as it means that some readers might get turned off right away, but I feel compelled to make the following statement all the same:

I’m not so sure that everything about the Internet is a good thing.

Macbook, Laptop, Google, Display, Screen, Work

Image via Pixabay

Please, people, please – put your pitchforks and torches down! I know it sounds crazy! But hear me out!

The Internet has brought wonderful blessings of connectivity, convenience, and openness to the word. And of course, we also know the Internet contains all manner of debauchery and enticements and evil, and it has simply become another place (and a most accessible place) for us to fight and divide and practice our sins.

But something else about the Internet that increasingly makes me uneasy is this:

It deceives us into thinking that we are smarter than we really are.

All of us. I don’t imagine any of us are immune to it. We have access to essentially all human knowledge and information that has ever existed, and we can access it whenever we want, and we can lay hold of whatever we want, and we can claim whatever version of facts or truth that we like best.

And it turns out that this isn’t a good thing at all.

Knowledge puffs up,” Scripture says (1Cor 8.1). Information on its own is not actually helpful but can be very damaging. Knowledge alone can give us a big head, an unhealthy and false sense of self, an exaggerated and unwarranted confidence. How many times have we heard (or said), “I know what I’m talking about, because I researched it.

(“Researched,” I have noticed, typically means “Googled/YouTubed it and read/watched the handful of things that popped up first.”)

The problem with unfettered global access to knowledge alone is that no amount of Googling can impart other crucial aspects of understanding, maturity and growth – things like gifting, talent, wisdom, expertise, and experience.

Consider what we are told about spiritual gifts, within the Church:

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (1Cor 12.12-14)

The metaphor is beautiful – all of us united, even though individual and distinct. But the context deepens:

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (1Cor 12.17-20)

So we all have a different purpose! And our purpose is crucial to the others around us, just as the other members all have a purpose that is important to the rest of us. We are bound to one another, and we need that diversity, in order to thrive.

But wait, there’s more!

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1Cor 12.21)

So there is an understanding that each body part actually desperately needs the other parts in a crucial way. And true, this passage is about spiritual gifts and not natural or vocational ones, but that doesn’t mean that the principle is not still good and doesn’t hold up to the broader conversation.

God has given each of us gifts and talents whether they be spiritual or natural or vocational ones. No one is good at everything, no one understands everything, and no one has them all. Because of this, every single one of needs to humbly lean on other people who are gifted differently than we are.

I can’t YouTube my way into expertise on how to fix my car. Lots of guys are mechanically-minded; my brain just doesn’t work that way. I just don’t get it. I can study the information, but lack the skill and comprehension to put it into practice.

I can’t take in enough online biblical teaching to never need a teacher in my life, especially one that I can interact with. There are a billion sermons available out there, and lots of them may be great and helpful. But I can’t be mentored or discipled in a deeper way through a screen or a podcast. I still need someone with a teaching gift in my life who can personally instruct and guide.

There aren’t enough articles or blog posts in the world to replace my need to seek financial advice from people who are experts in that area. My own reading may certainly inform the discussion, but I’m not gifted or knowledgeable enough in that area to be able to ignore people who can answer my questions, because they actually know what they are doing far more than me.

I will never be able to Google enough to make myself more knowledgeable than my doctor on medical matters. I may have access to medical information, but I lack the understanding, the training, the expertise, the experience, and the God-given talent to even know if what I’m reading is valid or crazy. And given the number of times that Google has told me pretty clearly that I have cancer (when it was actually the most minor of things), I know from my experience that Google is often a really bad doctor.

Of course, this does not mean that we should blindly trust someone just because they have training or giftings that we don’t have. We are still responsible for our own discernment. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we can’t start off doing some of our own searching, even just to help frame our questions/discussion.

But it does mean that we should appropriately give weight to those gifted differently from us when they are speaking from their area of God-given gifting, and not elevating ourselves above them due to some information that we found online.

In humility, we are to consider others better than ourselves (Phil 2.3). There are many applications to this command, and I believe one of them finds its place in this discussion. Humility calls us to acknowledge that we don’t know everything, that we need one another, that the body parts need to depend on the other body parts in order for everyone to thrive.

The danger of the Internet is that it pours out information, but it fails to also pour out gifting, character, wisdom, or understanding, and thus we are tricked into thinking we can be self-sufficient. It deceives us into thinking that we are smarter than we really are, and it makes us feel like we don’t need to trust or listen to others who might know more than we do.

Jesus is and has everything we need, but He has not given one person everything that they need on their own. Consider that, as with the Body of Christ metaphor, God has placed others in your life who are there to balance you out and help you along, and that to ignore them is to ignore the gift that He has given you.

This is another version of how we repeat Adam and Eve’s error from the very beginning, seeking knowledge and self-sufficiency at all costs, instead of choosing to trust and rely on Another (see Gen 3). As is our human nature, we make the same mistake over and over again.

The Body of Christ metaphor reminds us that we can never truly be self-sufficient. We all have areas of gifting, and lots of areas where we lack it. Therefore, we are all dependent on the gifts, wisdom, expertise of others, and this is exactly as it should be. No one can Google enough to actually master it all.

So by all means, start with the Internet. It can be a tool to see what’s out there, get our brains thinking, and figure out what our questions and issues are.

But from there, seek out those whom God has gifted differently than you, because that’s why He has placed them in your life. You bring your gifts to the table, they bring theirs, and in so doing, the whole scope of gifting, understanding, and expertise can be expressed, as we humbly acknowledge that we can’t have all the answers, and as we humbly accept that others are here to help us along in the journey.

********

If you’re enjoying what you read, you can follow Third Way Christians on Facebook or Instagram, or sign up to get new columns emailed to you here! As well, you can track along with Chris’ church teaching at Meadow Brook Church’s YouTube page!


Browse Our Archives