Facebook is the new phylactery

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. – Matt. 6:1

Back when Jesus first gave this teaching, it wasn’t uncommon to see church-folk wearing long robes and boxes containing Scriptures on their foreheads, called phylacteries. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with wearing such things; in fact, they were commanded to do it back in Deuteronomy 6.

The problem was some people, somewhere along the way, had become prideful about it. Guys who wanted to look super-spiritual added fancy tassels to their robes and built those forehead Scripture boxes much bigger than necessary. They wanted to impress people with their holiness.

Fast forward 2000-something years, and you don’t see too many tassel-loving phylactery wearers. But if you’re on social media websites much at all, you do see something that, if you think about it, might be a whole lot like it.

It reminds me of the age-old question, “If a tree falls in the middle of a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” It seems irrelevant, but what if we think of it in the context of Christianity and the Internet? If a person helps the homeless but doesn’t tweet about it, does it have any effect? If a church group has an awesome worship service but doesn’t post a picture on Instagram, does God see it? If your kid prays for his friend and you don’t write a Facebook status to let everyone know, is it just as sweet?

Obviously, serving the homeless, worship, and praying are good things; things Christ-followers are commanded to do. And using social media to edify the church is great. But the caution Jesus gave His disciples is the same for us today. Be careful.

Be careful that your motivation to post is not to boast. Be careful that you don’t miss out on the fullness of relationship with Christ by focusing on what others will think of it. Be careful.

Because if you don’t, then you are trading in eternal rewards for likes and retweets.

Some ways to tell if you’re crossing the line between the kind of sharing that honors God and a phylactery the size of the World Wide Web:

phylactery thumbYou think about what you will post about an experience or event before it even happens.

You check back often to see how many likes, comments, favorites, and retweets you got.

You really, really hope a certain person sees your picture or post.

You feel more satisfaction from your online response than you do from the experience itself.

You manipulate (or are tempted to manipulate) an event for the sake of a post or photograph.

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