Don’t Be An Internet Arsonist

fire

It’s so easy to hit “send” or “post” or “tweet” or “publish”. One click. One tap of the screen. One “yes” to Siri. I don’t even have to think about it. I bang out my message and fire it off, like a cowboy shooting from the hip. Maybe I post something funny. Maybe I post something critical of someone else. Maybe I post a link to a scathing article written about a prominent pastor. Maybe I make fun of the President.

The Internet makes it so easy to be an arsonist. To set the world on fire. To be a walking napalm. To go through the day spraying virtual gasoline on everything and everyone.

In James 3:5-6 it 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.

James’ point is that our words, which are seemingly small and unimportant, and which flow out of our mouths in a torrent, can be incredibly destructive. Our words are the equivalent of fire, which can level an entire forest, ruin massive buildings, and cause untold amounts of misery. Words are no small thing.

This passage in James applies just as much to the words we say digitally. Every Facebook post has the potential to set someone on fire. Every Tweet has the potential to ignite a blaze. Every Instagram and text message and Pin and Snapchat has the potential to set your entire life on fire. God takes our digital words just as seriously as our vocalized words. Do we take our digital words seriously?

It’s so easy to be an Internet arsonist. The Internet makes it so easy to say things we would never say directly to a person. Our glowing screens offer a false sense of security and protection. We can say something about a person without seeing the effect it has on that person. We can criticize a person without seeing the devastating, harmful effects of our criticism. We can post a picture without seeing how that picture tempts other people. The Internet allows us to say whatever we want without any of the normal consequences of speech. 

How can we avoid being Internet arsonists? We would be wise to regularly consider the following Scriptures:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths [or computers or smart phones or tablets!!!!], but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:29-30)

Before I hit “post” I need to ask myself: does this serve to build others up? Or are my words tearing and ripping and shredding a person? If  I said these words directly to a person would they be built up or torn down? Would their affection for Christ be increased or decreased? God intends all of our words and posts and tweets to have a building up effect.

The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak [or comment or post or Tweet!!!], for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.  (Matthew 12:35-37)

The things we post online are a reflection of what is already in our hearts. In other words, our speech is a reflection of who we are. When we stand before the Lord on Judgment Day we will give an account for every word we produce. Every spoken word, every text message, every Facebook update, every Tweet, every Pin, every Instagram. Before I post I need to ask myself: will I be ashamed of this post on the final day? Will I regret these words when I stand before the Judgment throne?

I don’t write this post as a guy who has it all figured out. No way. In fact, just the other day Jen graciously corrected me for something I posted on Facebook. I need that. Why? Because I don’t want to be an Internet arsonist.

Comments

  1. Everyday Servant says

    This is my first time on your blog. This article really resonates with me. It is an important call for anyone, but particularly important for the Christian blogging community. I note you tagline: Connecting God’s truth to real life. (Also the focus of my blog.) Don’t you think there’s an irony in the way the glowing computer screen to which you refer seems to separate us from that “real life” ?
    Bob Jackson
    http://www.everydayservant.com

    • stephenaltrogge says

      Absolutely! The Internet takes us away from real life in many ways. We think it’s real life, but it’s not really real life. It’s digital life.

      • Everyday Servant says

        On the other side of the flame throwing arsonist
        offender, I notice a lot of blogs that are “exclusionary” in the sense that
        they are so involved in the buzzwords of their belief system that no one with a
        different viewpoint could possibly participate in the discussion. I wonder if that could be a metaphor for some churches? Many years ago I was sitting in the balcony of a church where I was a member and I noticed a new family. They became increasingly uncomfortable with not knowing how to participate in the liturgy. At one point when the congregation was standing, they simply stood and
        walked out. The error was mine in not reaching out to them. But I also think that churches that use liturgy need to find ways to make it inclusive.

  2. Larry says

    In July your dad did a post on “are you killing people on Facebook” that absolutely changed the way I engage in social media and life. I retread that often. This is a great follow up and reminder. Thanks!

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