The Bible gives us everything we need to enjoy a life of godliness and righteousness (2 Pet. 1:3). The Bible calls for Christians to do good works (Eph. 2:10), but it also equips us to do the good works that God requires of us (2 Tim. 3:17). Though the writers of the New Testament obviously do not speak specifically about social media, we should expect to find principles that help us to use it in a way that honors Christ. No Christian must have or use social media. But, if we do use it, here are ten commandments or principles that we should keep in mind.
#1 Thou Shalt Not Post Sinful Things
Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22 ESV)
Christians are to abstain from evil in every form that it appears. God desires that we model the same holiness that is characteristic of him (1 Pet. 1:15-16). When we use social media, we should be sure not to post pictures of ourselves doing sinful things. We should not post pictures of us or others drinking, statuses with cursing, or quotes that promote ungodly behavior. We live in the world and cannot escape the presence of ungodliness, but we do not have to engage in it or promote it (John 17:15; 1 Cor. 5:9-10). We should be mindful of what we post and refrain from posting and endorsing things that are contrary to life in the Spirit (Gal. 5:19-25).
#2 Thou Shalt Let Thy Light Shine
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Jesus commanded his people to influence the world as salt (Matt. 5:13). Instead of hiding our light under a basket, we are to shine it for all the world to see and point the glory to our Heavenly Father (Matt. 5:14-16). On social media, we should do all that we can to let our light shine. This does not necessitate that every one of our posts includes scripture or that we always share a sermon, but it does mean that our post should lean toward positivity. We have good news to share and should be people of godly optimism. Beware of being the “doom and gloom” person on social media (or anywhere else for that matter). Our speech must be seasoned with salt and so should our posts (Col. 4:6). We should ask ourselves the following before we post:
- Will this reflect positively on the Lord?
- Will this encourage others?
- Would Jesus post something like this?
- Will this attract others to Christianity?
#3 Thou Shalt Not Covet
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Social media is great for posting good things happening in our lives and in our congregation. Sometimes, as this happens, people look over the fence at what others have or are doing and develop a sense of jealousy or covetousness. Be sure to congratulate others, be genuinely happy for the good others are enjoying, and celebrate the milestones being reached by friends and neighbors (Rom. 12:15). If a sister congregation is enjoying success or doing a good work, we should learn from them and be happy without wishing we were them or coveting their success. Social media should be used to commend and encourage not to compare and covet (cf. Exod. 20:17; Col. 3:5).
#4 Thou Shalt Not Bite and Devour the Brethren
But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:15)
There is nothing wrong with healthy discussion or even disagreement, but we must not destroy, belittle, and embarrass one another on social media. The world is watching, but more importantly, God is watching (Prov. 15:3). As parents sometimes tell their children, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Surely there is a time and a place for rebuke, but perhaps social media is not the best place. If we have an issue with a brother or sister, it would be better to go face to face rather than to go to Facebook (Matt. 18:15-20; 3 John 13-14). The church is an advertisement for the Lord, so let us put our best foot forward for the world to see (John 13:34-35).
#5 Thou Shalt Pray for Others
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)
There are so many prayer requests that come across one’s social media feed, these must be viewed as a great opportunity to pray. We will grow closer to God as we pray, and we can intercede on behalf of others. Be sure to actually pray! It is easy to type a comment like “praying” or “I’ll be praying” and never get around to actually praying. Pray right then and there and keep a list on your phone or elsewhere where you can add names and pray for them in the morning, at the red light, or before bed (1 Thess. 5:25). Use social media as a place to pray for others. As you scroll down, even if someone does not post a request, pray for friends you see and their families (1 Thess. 5:17; 1 Pet. 4:7).
#6 Thou Shalt Not Lie
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:9-10)
Lying has always been wrong and has always been condemned by God (cf. Lev. 19:11). However, even some of God’s most faithful children have struggled with telling the truth on occasion (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-18; 26:6-33). When we are online it is possible for us to present ourselves as something we are not. Or, we may be tempted to say things that simply are not true. As Christians, we should be committed truth speakers whether we are online or in-person because we have crucified the old man of sin along with his dishonest practice.
Also, we should be careful to make sure we are not promoting false or dishonest information. Christians have God’s approval and therefore there is no one left for us to impress. We do not have to lie or pretend like we have things that we do not have or have been to places we have not been.
#7 Thou Shalt Redeem the Time
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Even with all of the good social media can be used for, I think anyone who has used it for any amount of time would agree that it can be a great time waster. As Christians, we know that our time is short (Ps. 89:47). We need to redeem or make the best use of the time that God has given to us. We must not allow our social media use to crowd out time for prayer, Bible study, or fellowship with Christians (Ps. 1:2; Heb. 10:24-25). We also must be sure that our interaction with social media does not rob us of quality time with our spouse, children, or friends. People in our lives should not have to communicate with our screens. A neighbor who is nearby is better than a brother who is far away (Prov. 27:10).
Social media can be good for relaxation, laughs, and engagement with distant friends and relatives, but if it becomes an obsession, we must reel it in. We must refuse to be mastered by anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:12). We should remember there is nothing wrong with being bored. We do not have to fill every moment of our lives with content. We should learn to “be still and know” that God is God (Ps. 46:10). Use social media from time to time, but do not let it consume you. Let’s all do better about not living through our screens and being better stewards of the borrowed time given to us.
#8 Thou Shalt Be Humble
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. (1 Peter 5:6)
God is attracted to the humble and repulsed by the proud. Confidence is not a negative thing, but we must abstain from pride (Prov. 16:18). We can get to the point on social media where we are willing to do anything for “likes” or followers. Jesus described himself as meek and lowly in heart and we should emulate his spirit (Matt. 11:29). Let’s not use social media to elevate ourselves as better than others or more spiritual than others. Self-righteousness is both unattractive and uninviting. We should shine our light, but we can do so without turning others away because of our haughtiness (James 4:10). Humility must characterize us as God’s people—even on social media.
#9 Thou Shalt Assume the Best of Others
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
We do not know everything about people just because we are “social media friends” with them. This means that we must give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of others as often as we can, as long as we can. We should not be naïve or foolish, but let’s not be quick to jump to conclusions. We tend to think our educated guesses about others and their motives are 100% accurate but we probably have been wrong more than we have been correct. Look for the good in others. Do not judge people by one mistake or by what we think a post or a like suggests (Matt. 7:1-5). We should try to really get to know people, especially other Christians before we formulate an opinion about who they are and what they stand for. Give the benefit of the doubt because one day you will need it from others.
#10 Thou Shalt Do All to the Glory of God
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
No matter what we find ourselves doing in life we should do it to the glory of God. All of life is not worship, but all of life is to be lived as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2). These principles are given to help guide our use of social media in a wise and Christlike fashion. However, if we can keep before us the goal of glorifying God, we will be wiser in all of our endeavors. Ask yourself, “Does this comment or post bring glory to God?” “Will this harm my influence or effectiveness?” “Will this cause unnecessary division?” “Is this true?” These are the types of questions we should be asking as we engage on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. (Col. 3:17). The glorification of God is the goal of the Christian, even on social media!
You do not have to use social media to go to heaven. However, one’s use of social media could possibly keep one out of heaven. Let us be Christians in every area of our lives. May we be guided by the Word of God in everything we do. Social media seems like it will be around for a long time, so if we choose to use it let’s use it like God’s people should.