It seems we live in a society that yearns for recognition. Whether you are looking for someone to “like” the latest item you put up on Facebook, “follow” you on Twitter, “accept” your invitation on LinkedIn, “subscribe” to your YouTube channel, or “join” a Yahoo group you have generated, all of these things take on a life of their own when we forget to see them as the tools which work for us instead of self-generated ranking system for our lives.
The last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about how these social technologies can work for or against me as I have been reading through the book of Matthew and at the same time delving into finding new ways to use technology in the furthering of my outreach to families who want to eat healthier. After starting this webpage at the beginning of the year, I have been delighted with the number of “hits” it has received. I am glad that my recipes have helped people around the world feed themselves and their families with real food, and that from those “hits” I have been able to encourage those who have contacted me with their dietary and/or cooking questions. But, at the same time it seems those “hits” can draw me into a false sense of success, one that pins contentment on numbers verses the work that needs continued vision, renewal, and work...completely directed by the Lord, not by the way others are responding to the work I have felt called to do.
In reading through Matthew, chapter 10 is where I started getting a better vision of where I was going with all of this, and then in contrast where God was desiring me to go instead:
It all starts out with Jesus. He is the One and only I am to focus on, please, and confess before men...the rest of what I do may have purpose, but if Christ is not underlying in leading me from one point to the next in where I go, then I really have lost my way. But, Jesus knew that as humans we have a sinful desire to appease our fellow man and desire to be “liked” by others even more than God. Listen to how Jesus describes the way we tend to work towards that end:
“But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying:
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
We mourned to you, and you did not lament.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” Matthew 11:16-19
Yes, it is in our sinful nature to do things and then turn to our fellow man and say, “See what I did for you. Didn't you like it?” Even in Jesus' day there were people publicly doing acts to appease others (playing the flute and mourning), and then returning to those they were appeasing and wondering why what they did didn't make them more “liked”. This is not a new phenomenon that we seek for the attention of others. Instead, our newest technologies have just played towards our engrained sinful desires to feed off the appeasement we generate from those around us. That being said, I believe it is not the purpose of these technologies to pull us away from our desire to appease God first, but because of the nature of their programing to fulfill our sinful desires, they do tend to work this way in our lives if left unchecked.
Now, don't get me wrong in thinking that I see all of these new social technologies as evil. No, they all have great potential for doing many wonderful things in each of our lives as we live out our purposes which are set before us by God. But we must be willing to see how our human nature can pull us off track with them, and then then use them with the correct focus.
In thinking about all these things I have already written about, and as I was reading even further in Matthew, I came along another verse:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:24-30
The parable of the wheat and tares from chapter 13, along with the verse from chapter 12, was a good reminder to me of my need to also give grace and mercy to those around me who do not see these hidden dangers within social technologies. Yes, it is a gift to see where we can be led astray by our humanness, but never is that gift to be used in such a way as to pass judgment upon others. We live in a world where we are surrounded each day by believers and non-believers alike. Those who do confess a relationship with Christ, we are to hold accountable for the truth that has been given us. But, to those who are not, we are to live amongst them, just as the wheat which has inter-meshed roots with the tares, and then be the wheat we were called to be...to share the knowledge we have of the sin that surrounds all of us...and point those who don't know Christ, the only One who can change our nature from unforgiven to forgiven (tare to wheat) so His work can be fruitful in their lives too, if they choose.
As I came to the end in pondering all of these things, I realized that chapter 14 in Matthew provided some real concrete examples for all of us to look towards as how to live and not live when we live to appease. Living for Christ means appeasing Him alone, not man like we see in the example given to us of Herod in chapter 14 of Matthew:
“Because John had said to him, 'It is not lawful for you to have her.' And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.
So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, 'Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.'
And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.” Matthew 14:4-11
That being said, we are not to judge, but give mercy, because even though we may belong to Christ we are all still sinners by nature. Just some are forgiven and have the grace and insight to move forward through our failings. It is then in our forgiven state, that we are to fix our eyes on Jesus and trust in Him in all things..as Jesus reminded Peter in these following verses also from Matthew chapter 14:
“And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, 'Lord, save me!' And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'” Matthew 14:29-31
I am not sure where you are at today in all of this, or how my rambling may have spoken to you, but I will leave that in God's hands and live in thankfulness that as I move forward in using the technologies before me that no matter how many “likes”, “hits”, “subscriptions”, or “follows” I receive, if I live out the purposes set before me and seek to appease God alone, I can't go wrong.