As a math and science major at U of D, most of my close friends were engineers. We were always poking good-natured fun at each other. My favorite was the display of a bumper sticker with Alfred E. Newman, the face of Mad Magazine, saying “I usTa cuDnt speL enjinere, noW I aR wuN.”
People on social media quote from a lot of unusual sources – and I often wonder if they too are using satire as a lesson for their readers. Then I find out later that they too frequently buy into or are being deceived by the philosophy that’s being sold, and I wonder – should I say something to enlighten them – or just let it go? After all, it is their FaceBook page or Twitter account! But I usually come to the conclusion that I have an obligation to my convictions to speak truth – even when it hurts (them and me.) Often they don’t receive it very well. I guess it’s a pride thing. I just wish that some of my friends would be more careful about where they get their wisdom.
I understand that God can use any created thing to communicate tidbits of truth, including plants (a fig tree), animals (a donkey) and inanimate objects (a shepherd’s staff). Likewise the ungodly will occasionally be tapped by God to reveal knowledge or speak an encouraging word to mankind. There are lots of such examples, including the pagan king Cyrus, the agnostic scientist Thomas Edison, the naturalist and transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau and the New Age guru Deepak Chopra. But it’s a dangerous thing to go back to those wells again and again. Yet that’s what I see many of my acquaintances doing in their posts.
Things that sound good when our egos are looking for a boost or our emotions are frazzled often are not good at all. In fact, anything that “tickles our ears” needs to be tested against the written Word of God. We’re warned about this throughout Scripture. One only needs to remember that the same people that patted Jesus on the back and cried “Hosanna in the Highest,” barely a week later were shouting “crucify Him.” The Apostle Paul warned his pastor-in-training Timothy that “the time will come when [the people] will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” I don’t think there’s much question that the time he spoke of is now.
Not that this is a totally new thing – for it’s human nature to want to hear things that make us feel good. Even Isaiah of old identified this as one of the greatest problems of his time. He said even God’s “chosen” people demanded of their prophets and judges to “speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions,” in lieu of the truth, which was not so rosy.
There’s no question that the “sound doctrine” that Paul spoke of included some warm fuzzies: God loves us; He prospers us; He sends angels to minister to and protect us. But the True Gospel also contains some uncomfortable truth that the rebellious will never accept: that no one is “good” but God; that we are all sinners; that the wages of sin is death; and that rejection of God’s sole remedy for sin leads to eternal separation from God. The latter are some of the most critical doctrinal truths that few “believers” would debate. Yet even followers of Christ often fall for unsound doctrine and there are always dire consequences (spiritual and natural) whenever we do.
Everyone and every place we turn to for guidance must be tested for congruence to Biblical truth – because the enemy seems to have infiltrated even previously “safe sources.” Just yesterday I picked up a popular “Family” publication to help me pass the time as I worked out at Fitness 19. For some strange reason, over the weekend someone had purged out all copies of my usual favorites: National Geographic and Sports Illustrated. Anyway, as I scanned through this “Family” magazine I started to read an article on nurturing children, written by a renowned child psychologist. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the woman was selling a brand of Buddhism as a way to help children cope with stress and other of life’s problems. This included how to choose and use a mantra while meditating. I decided I’m going to have to start bringing my own reading material.
We all need to be very careful about what we expose our minds to – but even more careful about what we expose others to. The prophets of old, Jesus Himself and the writers of the Biblical books often spoke of how God placed a greater degree of accountability upon teachers and others in leadership positions. The writer Voltaire said it this way: “With great power comes great responsibility.” I understand that few of us typing at our laptops, tablets, smart phones, and smart watches truly recognize the power we possess – but we’d better learn real quickly. With the advent of social media, each of us who participates stakes a claim to the role of teacher and leader whether we like it or not. Others rely on our opinions and “the weakest among us” will believe anything they see or hear over this or any other media.
Where you get your “wisdom” is extremely important. And what portions of that “wisdom” you share with others is even more crucial – especially when the “others” can number in the hundreds and thousands by the time it is re-shared over and over. Take the time to do the research to verify the truth claims. Never respond to either something you agree with or something you disagree with before you ascertain that truth. And never-ever post anything when you are feeling your lowest; for it is at those times that your mind will be most clouded and least able to judge fact from fiction, truth from deception.