But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
Matthew 12:36-37 (NKJV)
I once heard a business colleague describe herself as being an inch deep and a mile wide. Our company had four major projects concurrently underway and she had been asked to provide an element of project management oversight to each one. So when she was asked to provide a status update for each project, she candidly expressed the truth that she was spread too thin to provide an update with much substance.
As soon as I heard her say, “Well, I’m about an inch deep and a mile wide right now,” I immediately thought of how much trivial and useless information daily clogs the Internet via social media posts. I don’t mean to be pejorative, but I really don’t care that you just “checked in” to your local ice cream shop. And I don’t know why you would care to see a picture of the used set of golf clubs I just bought at a yard sale.
Let me be perfectly clear: I am not against the use of social media. What wearies me is every post that falls into the category of idle words. According to the Strong’s concordance, the word idle in Matthew 12:36 comes from the Greek word transliterated argos meaning free from labor, at leisure; inactive, idle, and by implication lazy and useless. Additionally, it means to shun the labor which one ought to perform, and refers to things from which no profit is derived.
Synonyms used by other Bible translations throughout the New Testament for this Greek word argos are: careless, empty, thoughtless, ineffective, useless, barren, and worthless. These are not adjectives I want used to describe the words that I speak (or write). I would hope you feel the same about your own words.
Let’s take a closer look at that underlined portion of the definition for idle words: to shun the labor which one ought to perform. Meaningful communication does not typically spring from one’s stream of consciousness. If Donald Trump has taught us anything, he’s taught us that. Meaningful communication that is shared with the masses should be the result of thoughtfully considering the impact, consequence, and benefit of what is being communicated.
The Internet gives many of us a platform we would otherwise not have for sharing our views. That’s terrific – if we put forth the time and effort to make sure we are communicating something useful and beneficial to our audience. I encourage you to take a few minutes and consider the types of things you post on social media. Do your posts have any substance that makes them truly worthy of consumption by others? Or are they primarily a random collection of thoughts, pictures, and activities that are little more than an inch deep and a mile wide?
One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.
–Author and theologian John Piper
It’s probably too late for this not to sound like a diatribe against the use of social media, but I assure you it’s not. Rather, it’s an appeal to be purposeful with your posts. By all means, use social media to communicate! And yes, be free to post things simply for the purpose of making someone laugh. But guard against the majority of your posts falling into the category of being idle, empty, and useless.
Paul exhorts the church in Ephesus to “. . . not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” He continues, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit . . .” (Ephesians 5:17-18 NASB).
Dictionary.com defines dissipation as mental distraction; amusement; diversion. Much of what I see on social media could be classified as dissipation, and I speculate that if Paul were writing to us today he might possibly say, “And do not spend too much time on social media, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Hey everybody, it’s me again, posting something else about me. Look at this new toy I bought. Look where I was tonight. Look at my dinner plate. Here’s the rental car I’m driving while on vacation. . . .
After about 15 or 20 minutes of reading such posts, I inevitably find myself asking, “Now what was that all about?” And yet I am sometimes like a moth drawn to a flame when I start scrolling through this stuff. Why is that? I’m sure a psychologist somewhere knows the answer, but I’ll still take a stab at answering my own question. I think it’s the same thing that motivated Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit: curiosity. Fleshly curiosity. Oh, and of course dissipation (i.e. amusement).
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16 (NKJV)
If you think for a moment, you can probably figure out what the Greek word for redeeming means. Not only does exagorazo translate to the word redeeming, it also translates to changes we must make if we want to make the most of our time. These changes come with a cost. When something is redeemed, a price has to be paid. The Strong’s concordance defines this as: payment of a price to recover (something) from the power of another.
If we wish to recover (i.e. redeem) our time from the power of another, we have to pay the ransom money. And though this could have literal financial implications, the currency involved typically comes in the form of a tradeoff. If I want to do X, I must give up Y. Think sacrifice; think trading pleasure for pain—a pain that produces a gain.
Let’s consider an obvious example: if I want to lose weight and get in better physical condition, I have to push away from the table, and I have to exercise my body. Anyone who’s done this knows it’s no fun! But if I trade the pleasure for the pain, in the long run I reap the reward of a slimmer, healthier body.
Now let’s apply that same principle to our walk with Christ. If I want to be used by God with the full measure of grace given to me, I may need to sacrifice some of the idle, empty, useless, and worthless activities I give myself to in exchange for the time required to study God’s Word and seek His heart. By doing so, I will be better equipped to fulfill His purpose for my life.
I’m not saying that everything you post on social media should contribute to the elimination of world hunger, or curing cancer, or creating world peace; neither am I saying to never post that goofy looking picture or funny quote somebody shared with you. I am, however, encouraging you to put forth the effort to leverage this powerful platform of social media to share things that are more than an inch deep and a mile wide.