By Stephen Altrogge
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, text messaging, email, and every other form of online communication have loads of potential for good. They can be used to encourage people, make people laugh, share helpful information, feel bad about how lousy your house looks (see Pinterest), and play a game called “Candy Crush”, which I have yet to play.
Social networks can also be used to kill a person.
Proverbs 18:21 says:
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Wow. My words have the power to impart life to someone or to kill them. Death and life are in the power of the tongue and the status update and the photo and the text message. Every word I speak or type carries enormous life-giving or life-stealing potential. Words aren’t neutral. Status updates aren’t innocent. The words we speak and type and text today reverberate into eternity.
James 3:5-6 says:
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And 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.
My words have the potential to create roaring, blazing, consuming fires. With my words I can set people on fire for Jesus or I can set people on fire for wickedness. Imagine how careful I would be if every time I spoke a small burst of flame came out of my mouth! I would speak ever so carefully. But often I’m not careful about the words I post. I don’t see them as explosive. Consuming. Flaming.
In his commentary on Proverbs, Ray Ortlund Jr. says:
In fact, when Proverbs 10:21 says “the lips of the righteous feed many,” the word “feed” means “shepherd,” the way a shepherd tends and guides and protects and feeds his flock of sheep. It means we all take responsibility to breathe life into everyone around us by our words of encouragement.
As Christians, we have a divine responsibility to breathe life into those around us by our words of encouragement. Do our words and updates and texts and photos and emails breathe life into those around us? I want to grow in this area.
Here are some simple questions to ask before we speak or post or send:
- Does this help others think in a godly way regarding [insert person such as the President, a pastor, a friend, a blogger, a church, etc.]?
- Does this promote faith in God or worry?
- Does this impart life to people by way of encouragement, laughter, faith, or biblical thinking?
- Will what I’m saying have a damaging effect on someone else’s reputation in a way that is unfair to them and doesn’t give them the chance to represent themselves?
- Does this promote gratefulness to God and joy in him?
- Does this encourage others to trust God in the face of adversity?
Our words have the power to give life or death, to set aflame for good or evil. Let’s ask God to give us wisdom in all that we speak, post, and send.
Stephen Altrogge serves as pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA. Stephen is author of the books Game Day For the Glory of God: A Guide For Athletes, Fans, and Wanabes and The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. Stephen blogs at The Blazing Center.