Continuing on with the last post, 10 Things I Hate About Facebook, I’ll try to waste little time by picking up where I left off. The essential thrust of the first post was that Facebook can be a pretty good barometer of the rank selfishness that so often consumes our individual worlds. We love to toot our own horns, bask in our own self-appointed glory and champion the kind of pet issues that make us feel bigger and better than others. Many times, Facebook is the place this becomes grotesquely obvious.
I don’t mean this list so much of a slam of others as a brotherly, in-house word of correction—a word I address to myself as much as I do to you. As Christians, there shouldn’t be areas in our life where we jettison godliness or act as though we’re exempt from biblical standards of conduct. Facebook isn’t the place you go, for instance, to set aside Ephesians 4:29 while you subtly blast someone for buying non-organic cheese. It’s not the place you take a break from walking in covenant faithfulness. It’s not a “scripture-free zone” in which the Bible need not apply. In an effort to do all things—including Facebook—to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), it’s important to think about what we do and say while we’re there.
On with the list, then.
3. Declaring fasts and publishing prayers.
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do… that they may be praised by others… and when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others… And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others (Matthew 6:1-18).
At least four or five times a week, someone posts in their status update, “I’m fasting from Facebook. We’re shutting down the technology for a few weeks, and we’re not watching TV or playing with our smartphones. See you on the flip side.” And every time I read something like this, I think about Matthew 6.
It’s not one of those passages scholars wrestle to understand, nor do we. It’s pretty straightforward. We just ignore it, especially when we’re on Facebook. As Jesus points out, we all have a tendency to want to practice our righteousness (fasting is a good thing!) in such a way that we gain the praise of others in the process (not good!). Fasting is good; broadcasting it to everyone else on Facebook is not. So stop doing it. Jesus said your fasting should be done in private; keep it that way.
If you want to fast from Facebook, technology, food or really anything else you think keeps you from Christ, great. I think periods of fasting should be part of the Christian life, for all is not as it soon will be. We long for our wedding feast with the Bridegroom. We ache for resolution and redemption. But we don’t broadcast our fasting to the world. Exercise your faith by keeping quiet about it, knowing that God sees and others don’t need to.
And then there are the prayers that people post on Facebook. I understand ordained ministers and pastors want to teach their people how to pray, and so issue “prayers for the church.” There’s a biblical tradition of public prayer. But Facebook isn’t really your church, and there’s a grave danger that we do it just so others will notice.
For any of us, posting prayers on Facebook is a lot like standing on the street corner to pray so that everyone says, “Man, that guy is godly.” When Jesus says prayer should be done in the private of our own room, I am inclined to keep it that way. Pray for me, pray with me but please, stop telling me what you prayed for on Facebook.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (Matt 6:1).
4. I really do not care how far you ran today, what diet you’re on or how much weight you lost.
I always laugh when I think about the scene from Dumb & Dumber in which Jim Carey sits at the bar waiting for his no-show dream date, and the female undercover agent talks his ear off with horrendously emotional details from a former relationship. She asks him for the millionth time, “You know what I mean?” and he yells, “No, and I don’t care! Bartender!”
That’s the reaction I have when people post how many miles they just ran, how many calories they burned or what their average steps per day are. Or when people update their status relentlessly with info about their new, successful diet. It’s ridiculously annoying. It’s not a complex phenomenon; it’s called bragging, and we’re not supposed to do it.
“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).
“I just lost 20 pounds since going on this new diet, I feel better than ever and am heading into life everyday with passion and enthusiasm.” That’s great, but again, what makes you feel like you need to tell the world? Tell your wife or husband, tell your closest friend but don’t tell the entire Facebook world. I can say as a married man, when another married woman posts how much weight she lost, I always feel like asking, “Do you know how many married or single men you just asked to take a closer look at your body the next time they see you, or how many men (or women) you’ve just invited to peruse through your Facebook photos to verify what you’ve just told them?”
Here’s another thing to think about: you cannot possibly fathom how many people are probably struggling with their body weight at the exact moment you’re boasting about how much you just lost. It creates jealousy and envy in others. When you feel like sharing something like that, is it because you’re concerned for others, bearing with the weak or trying to edify? Or is it because you want something you did to be praised and lauded by so many people you hardly know?
You wouldn’t go up to a friend struggling with obesity and say, “Hey, guess how much weight I just lost!” So why do you do it on Facebook?