On Sunday mornings this fall we are working our way through a sermon series on the book of Proverbs. We are just over halfway through it now. On Wednesday nights, as a part of our church's weekly youth ministry I meet with a small group of young men, grades 7-9. I am having them read and think about just one chapter in the Proverbs per week and pick out one Proverb that they'd like to discuss with the rest of the group. It has been a joy to talk about the wisdom that the Lord has given to us within the book of Proverbs with these young men. I am praying that they, along with our whole church body, would grow in wisdom and the fear of the Lord through these times in the Proverbs. There are so many Proverbs, that we will just not be able to cover every one in our sermon series. There is one however, that has recently struck me that I wanted to at least give some time to in a blog post since I won't be able to focus on it on Sunday mornings, that is Proverbs 14:15. It is a proverb that is particularly fitting within our heavily social-media-influenced news culture.
Proverbs 14:15 - "The simple believe everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps."
When the internet and email provided us with a way to look up information about anything we were curious about and then instantly pass that information on to everyone in our address book, the simple among us were all of the sudden unable to hide their gullibility. It was like a bright sign that read "Hey look everyone! I'm gullible!!" would show up in your inbox, sometimes a couple of times a day. But after a few years, even the gullible grew disenchanted with receiving email forwards and quickly deleted them rather than reading them and sending them on. But then along came social media platforms like Facebook and then Twitter. These new and unimaginably popular ways to communicate and "share" news about yourself with the whole world once again provided us with ways to spread "news" and information instantly no matter how true the "news" was. Social media is the latest way that those who are simple reveal to the world their gullibility, sometimes several times per day.
Proverbs 14:15 warns and instructs us to, as the old children's Sunday School song sang, "be careful little ears, what you hear." Take care that you don't believe everything you hear, even when it gives the appearance of being a somewhat trustworthy source, like a Facebook friend or a family member. It is overwhelming to me to imagine the amount of gossip, slander and falsehoods which are spread around social media as truth on a day to day basis.
Of course, one of the key issues our gullibility reveals is that we tend to uncritically believe what we want to believe. When we read or hear a report about something which encourages or defends beliefs and preferences that we already have, we tend to accept them without question. On the contrary, the reports and statements we hear that go against our preconceived notions and stances we ignore or reject without looking much into it. God's Word in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 refers to this phenomenon, "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." Friends, this is a warning to us to not be simple and just "believe everything" but to be wise, humbling ourselves before the Lord and to give "thought to our steps."
As one pastor shared, "If we have technology but not wisdom, we will use the best communications ever invented to broadcast our stupidity." There seems to be a lot of that going on nowadays, even from the top office in our nation. Friends, let's rather seek wisdom and humbly pray for discernment and be careful to look into things we hear on the internet, the news, and social media before we bite on them and get suckered, hook, line and sinker.