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TODAY’S WORLD: Facebook and God’s Book

Hugely popular, but is FACEBOOK helpful?

 

In October 1953 an article about short-wave radio appeared in Boys’ Life magazine. Ken Boord, the author of the article, was extolling the wonders of short-wave radio which enabled users to contact all five continents in a single evening — and sometimes within only a few minutes. It seemed so exciting then! It might be Big Ben striking the hour in London, or the bells of St. Peter’s in Rome; sounds from Baghdad or Egypt, or the call of the Kookaburra bird in Australia — “the whole world is at your fingertips” by means of short-wave radio, he wrote enthusiastically. [1]

 

Times have changed. Many young people growing up today will hardly have heard of short-wave radio, but like the boys who would have read avidly of its wonders a little more than sixty years ago, “the whole world is at [the] fingertips” of the present generation. Indeed, the world has become something of a global village with access to someone on the other side of the globe being possible at the click of a button. Computers were all but unknown in 1953 when Ken Boord explained “the magic of short-wave radio” to magazine readers.  Not many had heard of Alan Turing’s invention in 1936 – a device that printed symbols on paper tape – or the Colossus, the first electric programmable computer which was demonstrated in December 1943. Early computers were huge, as the name Colossus suggests.

 

Much could be written about the progress made since those early inventions. Hewlett Packard, today a world-renowned computer manufacturer, began to market its first desktop computer (the HP 9100A) in 1968. Intel introduced the first microprocessor in 1971, and the first micro-computer appeared in 1973 at a cost of $1,750!

 

Since those early days progress has been rapid, with technological advances that would amaze writers such as Ken Boord. The wonders of short-wave radio pale into insignificance in the light of developments which have resulted in a tiny hand-held device, capable of doing more than a cumbersome computer that once was housed in a room. Truly “the whole world is at your fingertips” today in a very literal sense! But is this really good, we ask? Have such developments resulted in a better world? Indeed, do they help us in a spiritual sense?

 

 

ALWAYS QUESTIONED

Inventions have always been questioned by spoil-sports, it will be said. When the printing press was invented there would have been Christians who frowned upon it and branded it as evil. With hindsight, however, we can see that although printing presses have been used to promote the devil’s work and to flood the world with pornography, they have also been used to spread the Word of God. It would be impossible to calculate how many have been eternally saved simply by reading a printed copy of the Scriptures or a gospel leaflet. Radio was also viewed similarly. In its early days some believers refused to have a radio (or “wireless” as it was then called) because they considered it to be a tool of Satan. However, radio has been mightily used of God in making known the message of the gospel. Again, we will never know while here on earth how many have been blessed through this invention.

 

Television is another means to consider. Although it has its dangers (which may be greater than radio in that you not only hear but also see what it offers) the Lord has used it in His purposes. The same will undoubtedly be said of newer means that are available to us, such as the Internet. We must not adopt a “dog in the manger” attitude where we deny that any good can come out of man’s inventions. However, neither must we take a “there’s good in everything” position. “What saith the Scripture?” (Rom.4:3 KJV) must be our question. It is important to see if there are principles that may help us, for while benefitting from mankind’s inventions we are not to be conformed to the world around us (Rom.12:2). With this in mind, having the world at your fingertips presents a challenge. Much that the world has to offer is not good and should be rejected. Therefore we need to apply some principles from Scripture to this question.

 

 

FACEBOOK

Facebook is a very popular and free social-networking website which allows registered users to create profiles, send messages, and keep in touch with friends. It is available in at least 37 different languages. Each member has a personal profile, the most popular of which is probably the Wall where messages can be left and pictures displayed. Interactive features allow one’s “friends” to comment on what they see. Users can also broadcast short announcements to their friends through regular status updates. Those who have access to your Facebook page can click “like” to let you know that they have enjoyed seeing your picture or reading your comment. From a marketing perspective, this is a powerful tool. A business can gain credibility by the number of “likes” that commend it to other potential customers.

 

Is there anything wrong in all this? If the printing press, radio, TV, and the Internet can all be used to good effect, why should Facebook be any different? On the surface, it shouldn’t be, but there are some deeper principles that need to be considered.

 

The first of these is that Facebook is primarily a very readily-available expression of self. Printing, radio, TV, and the Internet are all more general tools. Facebook is very different, for it is something personal that an individual can use to promote self. Users are often warned to be wary about the information they share on Facebook. Although unlikely, it is not impossible for one’s identity to be stolen when it has been made public. Stalking and trawling have also been known. Paedophiles have sometimes disguised themselves and struck up a friendship with an unsuspecting young person. In some cases this “friendship” has led to an untimely death. But beyond the practical warning about one’s own safety, is it right for a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ to promote self? The Saviour did not speak of self-fulfillment when He called people to follow Him. Rather, He spoke of the need to deny self, take up the cross, and follow Him (Lk.9:23).

 

 

CELEBRITY STATUS

Facebook is a means whereby nobodies can become celebrities. Although it can be used in a very modest way, generally it is not. Really, Facebook users are expected to update their profile regularly and to display pictures of themselves. Posing in front of a camera or taking a “selfie” (a self-portrait) is the usual practice. Viewers then “like” what they see which boosts the self-esteem of the one who posted the picture.

 

Humility is a Christian virtue, but it is unlikely to be encouraged when someone announces that they have received a hundred “likes” for their latest self-portrait! Used in this way, Facebook becomes a “look at me” means of self-promotion. It implies that the person posting the picture is worth looking at, and it is a means of seeking approval and a sense of wellbeing from the commendation of others. Is this wrong? Perhaps the question should be reversed. We can only say that it is hardly right — for if we are believers we follow a Saviour who sought no applause for Himself in this world. If we are followers of the Lord Jesus we must be prepared to submit to His authority and to refuse the ways of the world that appeal to the old nature.

 

Another feature that emerges from Facebook and merits consideration is the matter of trivia. For many, Facebook has not only become a means of self-promotion; it has become trivial. Do all my “friends” really need to know that I have worked hard and am now relaxing at home with a warm drink in my hand and my favourite food on a plate in front of me? Is this really something I need to share? Connected with trivia is the time element. How much time can be spent following what other “friends” are doing instead of engaging in worthwhile activities? Would it not be more useful spending time in the company of a needy human being, seeking to help them, rather than frittering away time by reading of the trivial pursuits of others? Facebook can actually create artificial friendships that are divorced from real personal contact.

 

The reason put forward for using Facebook is often that it is a means of communicating with a number of others at once. While this may be true, it is not the only means. Emails can easily be sent to a number of people to convey information without having to draw attention to self and invite people to “like” what you are doing.

 

 

COMPROMISE

A further consideration needs to be made. It is important for believers to maintain biblical standards, but through the use of Facebook it is possible (perhaps unwittingly) to endorse practices that are not right. Imagine the following scenario. A young Christian reveals (through Facebook) that he now has a girlfriend. By looking at the girl’s profile it soon becomes obvious that she is not a believer. How are his “friends” on Facebook going to react? Later, perhaps, the young man announces that he has been able to obtain a loan and purchase a house. It takes little imagination to work out that he and his girlfriend will soon be living together in the house although they are not married. Non-Christian “friends” of the young fellow read his updates and “like” his statements, for they see nothing wrong in what he is doing. But if you are a Christian Facebook “friend” of the person, how will you respond? You will not want to upset the young man — and in any case Facebook does not allow anyone to “dislike” something. Will a Christian who spends a lot of time “chatting” on Facebook be prepared to remain silent and not to endorse the wrong step which has been taken? In any case other users will be able to read the response that you make to someone else’s news. Typical Facebook users face a real challenge in matters like this.

 

 

GOD’S BOOK

More important by far than Facebook is God’s Book — the Bible. In practical terms it teaches us not to look after ourselves but to think of others — and we don’t need to imagine that we can do this by “liking” them on Facebook! Consider the following words of Scripture: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory: but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil.2:3—5).

 

We need the “mind” [outlook] of Christ. Instead of drawing attention to self, we need to think of others. Speaking of the Lord Jesus, John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn.3:30). Does that mean that our “face” should not be seen? One verse of Scripture can answer that question. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor.3:18).

 

We need an “open face” as we come before the Lord — open, that is, in order for Him to work in our lives and transform us. Time must be spent looking, in faith, to Him. As we focus our gaze upon Him, the Holy Spirit of God is able to transform us and make us more like the Lord Jesus. Such a transformation is better than anything Facebook can offer!

 

[1] Boys’ Life magazine, October 1953. Article by Ken Boord on page 24. This can be found in Google Books.