We are flooded with words daily. According to Social Times the Adweek Blog Network the average social media user consumes 285 pieces of content daily—54,000 words a day.[1] That’s a lot of words all coming from social media—a lot of words being put out there and read.

Yet how we use our words on social media verses how we would speak face-to-face doesn’t always match up. Everyday on our newsfeeds we see lobbying for social causes, cyber-bulling, shaming, celebrating and grieving. We hungrily consume information about other people’s lives, freely feeling we have a right to know the details and express our opinions. Christians rebuke one another across Twitter and share deep suffering on Instagram.

Applying Wisdom to Social Media

As Christians we must use wisdom in all areas of our lives, including how we use and respond to others on social media.

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Proverbs 10:19

People often treat Facebook as their personal journal, sharing more information than what is honoring to others or to their own families. But biblical wisdom tells us that we need to be careful about how much we speak and how much we share with others; i.e. it isn’t wise to wear our heart on our sleeve on social media.

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14

We all need to check ourselves, and maybe even be checked by others, before we post something. I often have a few friends that I’ll run things by before posting to help me guard my words, but also to check my motives and to hold me accountable.

Here are a few things to ponder over when using social media and how we can step into social media and give life. 

Listening

Knowing when to speak and when not to speak is a skill. Just as we would listen to a person face to face we need to learn how to “listen” as we read what people are putting online.

Are you reading something online and before you’re even finished reading already typing your response? Are you quick to share your opinion on every matter?

We give life to others when we listen because it shows other people that we care for them and are willing to do life with them (even strangers online). You won’t know how to begin giving life with your words if you aren’t listening (or actually reading) to what people are saying.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” James 1:19

Encouragement

Our words can give life or death. A bad word divides, deceives, and destroys:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21

Facebook is flooded with debates, critiques and complaints, many coming from Christians. Judgment for ambiguous moms and their parenting fails we witnessed, arguments over formula versus breast-feeding.

But we don’t speak with the authority of absolute truth; only the Lord does. So as we jump in on these threads, we must think through what good is it serving? How am I actually helping this person? Am I posting my thoughts on this subject for the praise of others or for attention? Would I actually say this to this person’s face? Is this helpful for building others up according to their needs? Does it benefit those who are listening (Eph 4:29)? We give life when we point people to the Lord with our words.

From our relationship with God, our heart overflows with words, as David’s did in Psalm 19:14:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD.”

We should desire for our words to be pleasing in the sight of the Lord, not to capture the attention of those around us or to be the person in-the-know, but to speak words of life that point to Christ. When our lives aren’t found in Christ, our words aren’t rooted in the Lord, but in Satan. Our struggle to give life with our words is a struggle of our hearts.

Rebuke

If we read and study Matthew 18 then we should never use social media to publicly rebuke someone. Christians give shame online with much authority even though they don’t have that authority given to them. It’s grieving to get online and see a pastor write, “I rebuke you” to a person with whom they just don’t agree theologically.

We aren’t giving life if we aren’t willing to love someone with a godly rebuke. Don’t sit in silence. Hate sin and fight for the purity of the community around you in light of eternity. But when rebuking someone, first we have to identify if the person is really in sin. We do this by going to scripture and comparing our friend’s actions to what the Bible says. Then, we pray for wisdom and grace, and for the power to speak in love. Pray for the one you are rebuking. Pray for a conviction of sin, that they would leave your conversation desiring to be more like Christ and seek repentance. Then pursue the person off of social media. If you have seen a person sin online, please go to them, but go to them in the manner scripture instructs.

Praise

We are quick to give attention and praise to how others look or the amazing pictures they take. Yet we are slow to give praise and honor to people for something they’ve done. Aren’t people more valuable than a cute outfit or a photographic picture?

Social media allows opportunities to celebrate with one another and to celebrate each other. We give life by praising people; we give them honor and we affirm the work that the Lord is doing in them.

Remember Whom Social Media Is About

Before you assert your opinions, shame others, rebuke, or start a war on social media, keep in mind that others are listening. The way you use social media either points people to the Lord or to yourself. We need to step out of the way and start giving life with our words on social media so that people are pointed toward the life-giver of authority and truth himself, our gracious God.

Amanda Edmondson is on staff at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Ky where she serves as the Director of Women's Ministry and the Director of Strategic Communication. You can follow her @amandaedmondson.

 

[1] Social Times, Social Media Overload – How Much Information Do We Process Each Day? http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/social-media-overload/488800