Last night we took one more week of break from our study through Romans to consider Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6 and how it relates to our private (secret) life with God–and how social media impacts this necessary part of life. Here are the notes:
The scriptures we looked at were Matthew 6:1-7, 16-18. Some observations:
1. The issue: living our lives “to be seen” by people. (v. 1,5,16) Note: The issue is not being seen in general. See 5:13-16. It seems that this goes for our all aspects of our life, not just some part of life we’d label “spiritual.”
2. A Helpful Question: who do you want to see you? If it’s people, why? (If that’s the case, Jesus says “you have your reward”–applause, esteem, people’s admiration). But there’s another question we might ask here to help get at what he’s teaching: Who do you want people to see? …to notice? …to think about? …to admire? …to praise? …to want?
3. Another Question: Why do people feel this way?
Two reasons maybe: 1. Because they think that other people are the only ones there to notice. 2. Because they think that the only things that have value in their lives are the things others see (they want “their reward”).
4. The Antidote: Know that you have a father who sees in secret.
If there really was no one there in the universe except other humans, then this teaching of Jesus would make no sense. But if there is a God who sees all things, and to whom the hidden things are just as open as the things that we call “public”—that makes everything different. Now even the most secret moments in our lives are inhabited by Someone else, and in fact, by the most important Person in the universe…in fact , the only person whose opinion matters. And, if that Someone is the one who made us, and if he made us to relate to him, than our relational life with Him is the most important thing to us. It’s the thing we should think most about, invest the most in, and derive the most joy from.
A further observation: God has made all of life like this. We have lives made of concentric circles of relationships, and the more important they are, the closer they are to us, then—the more things happen in that relationship that don’t leave the circle of that relationship. God has designed shared information and experiences, kept in that relationship, and accumulated over time, to be in the very fabric of what relationships are. If this is true, it leads to this next question…
5. What secret life with God do you have?
What worship has passed between you and God that no one else knows about? If you think something, or write something, pray something, or do some act of service to God, do you feel the need to have other people hear it, read it, see it, or know about it? If you had to, so to speak, tally up and weigh out everything that just you and God know, what would be in that list?
6. How Social Media impacts this.
Social media is breaking down the barrier that has always stood between the public and the private. I think these scriptures show us that that barrier is part of God’s design in the world. To break it down is to injure ourselves, to lower ourselves and miss some essential part of what it means to be human. It may even lead us to sin, and to an emptying out of the private places of our lives so that we have food for the beast of our new, hungry public lives.
It affects our relationships with other people too. If I start to take the personal parts of my marriage public, I would be emptying that relationship out, and eventually, I would turn it into a husk…a shell of its former self, and make it meaningless. Can we say the same for our friendships? And what about how it impacts our relationship with God himself?