With the rise of social networking (Twitter, Facebook, blogging sites, etc.), we’re provided outlets for expending each and every thought, idea, and/or belief that pops into our minds. At any moment, we are able to permanently etch a thought into the cyber world that can be seen globally by every eye on the web. Smart Phones have certainly augmented this phenomenon. Now, all of our favorites networking sites are right at our finger tips at all times. Convenient? Certainly. However, the danger has the potential to far outweigh the expediency.
The teenage years are defined by physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and (Lord willing) spiritual development. Each of these areas of development consist of extreme ups and downs. Youth ministry sage Jim Burns writes, “For many teenagers this period of life can be summarized by an increase in chaotic extremes and contradictory, intense inner feelings.” Go down the Facebook News Feed that features 12 year olds through 20-somethings. You’ll find feelings of depression (i.e. break-up sob stories), elation (i.e. “Jenny said ‘YES!’…..to go with me to Prom!”), anxiety, worry, anger, inferiority – and all of these are typically expressed with deep passion and intensity. The next week, a completely opposite emotion might be expressed by the same people. Because of this, social networking couldn’t be a more dangerous weapon in the hands of teenagers.
3If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil,full of deadly poison.
Our bodies are comprised of legs, arms, muscles, tendons, etc. But, much like a ship guided by a small rudder, we are directed by our tongues. The tongue is also likened here to a deadly fire as well as a deadly poison that stains the whole body, being full of evil. Those are strong descriptors that could certainly point towards being a “loaded weapon”.
My family hails from the south, so naturally we own guns. We like to hunt (and secure our borders with a little home defense). At a relatively young age, my brother and I were taught how to handle a rifle by my dad in addition to hunters’ education courses. Everything that entered our ears revolved around safety – how to load the gun, how to hold the gun, how to aim the gun, how to shoot it, pointing the gun up or down, the safety mechanisms on the guns, etc.. When I was in the fifth grade, there was one particular occasion on a hunt with my dad and brother on which, while carrying a .22 caliber rifle and walking a few feet behind them, I about gave my elders a heart attack when my rifle suddenly went off by accident. However, because it had been engrained within me to point the rifle towards the ground, no one was injured (except my pride). My dad was startled and upset with me because I should have had my safety on. The event certainly gave me a renewed wake up call to the importance of utilizing safety precautions – they are in place to prevent serious injury or death.
Many adults have not even learned the necessity of taking these steps! When I was in college (which is late-adolescence these days) I began blogging on Facebook… I was an idiot. I blabbered off about theological hot topics and social issues… I failed to tame my tongue and it came back to bite me in the butt, and in some ways of which I’m probably unaware (my reputation). Even to this day, I struggle with hypocrisy in this arena. Because of this, I have to take extra precautionary steps. For example, with my Twitter account, I’ve recently begun filtering some of my tweets through a trusted individual before I publish them.
We need to think before tweeting/texting/updating a status. Rather than telling the Facebook world about the break up, or how you really hate life right now, or sending ambiguous messages about not liking people who (fill in the blank) that are obviously directed towards certain individuals – we should talk to God; we should talk to Christian elders; we should talk to a journal. We should learn to channel those emotions in places where the tongue can’t get us into trouble.
The heart is deceitfully wicked and can’t be trusted (Jer 17:9). The tongue is a restless evil and full of deadly poison (Jas 3:8). Whoever learns to keep his/her words few and practices discernment in communication keeps him/herself out of trouble (Prov. 21:23). May we impart this wisdom in the lives of teenagers as well as practice it in our own lives. After all, if we fail to do this, according to James our religion is worthless (Jas 1:26).
The problem isn’t the advancement of technology. The problem is man’s sinfulness. Technology isn’t going anywhere, and social networking will only grow more convenient. The solution, despite Great-Grandpappy Delbert’s belief, isn’t to burn all of the iPhones and computers in the world… Instead, let’s impart biblical wisdom – which begins with the fear of God – and discernment to ourselves and the young people with whom we’ve been entrusted. In both wisdom and discernment, we find the Gospel. True wisdom is carrying out righteousness and it can only be obtained by those who fear God by putting their trust in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Instead of giving young adolescents a loaded gun, let’s give them the book of Proverbs and teach them wisdom. So, in the words of one of my professors at Southern, Gary Almon, “The book of Proverbs is like a bag of nails. If you wanna nail your kids to Jesus – give ’em wisdom.” Wisdom is the sheath that covers a double-edged sword. It is the strength to harness the tongue. But while we learn to master wisdom, it is equally prudent to take practical steps towards inhibiting the tongue to organize damage. Let’s encourage wisdom to stop posting personal issues, complaints, vendettas, slanderous or potentially harmful comments on Facebook and Twitter. This isn’t a call to replace them with “Christian-ese” comments (I’m speaking to myself as well…). Let’s heed the call from Ecclesiastes 5:2 – “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”