Shayne Looper: Facebook users - hang a verse on your wall

Shayne Looper

Facebook has over a half-billion users, has uploaded a cumulative 50 billion photos and hosts untold trillions of words.

But as a wise man wrote, “When words are many, sin is not absent” (Proverbs 10:19).

I don’t have a Facebook account. For me, social networking still means meeting friends for lunch. But my wife, Karen, is on Facebook — in a manner of speaking.

Last year our daughter-in-law Beth was searching for a teaching job near Chicago. Every time we talked to her we heard about new job possibilities, but none of them seemed to work out. Then one day some friends at church surprised us: “It’s so exciting that Beth got a job.”

How did our friends find out about our daughter-in-law’s job before we did? They saw it on Facebook. That was the day Karen decided to get a Facebook account.

I could foresee what would happen. She would check her Facebook page for two weeks, then forget about it for six months. And I was right: The last time she got on Facebook she had about a hundred unread messages.

Maybe it’s just as well. “When words are many, sin is not absent.”

Our church’s youth pastor, Matt, is online all the time. He “Facebooks” students to let them know about upcoming youth group events and to provide pastoral encouragement. He has found Facebook to be a helpful tool in student ministry.

But Matt tells me that he is often surprised by the things that Christian students (and adults) post online. Something about sending thoughts into cyberspace, as opposed to speaking them out loud, seems to remove a person’s natural restraint.

On Facebook, people don’t edit their feelings before they air them. Students use texting abbreviations for words that should never come out of their mouths, and they gossip about friends and enemies alike.

And these things don’t go away. A snide comment about a friend will be floating around a year from now. If a churchgoer complains about someone at church, that complaint remains extant long after the misunderstanding has been cleared up.

A person can say, “Look, it’s just Facebook. It doesn’t mean anything. People just write what they’re thinking about — whatever comes out at the moment.”

But whatever “comes out at the moment” does mean something. It is far more revealing than the thoughts we’ve edited and rephrased to be politically and socially correct. It is not the polished speech, but the careless word that gives us away, that divulges our true character.

Jesus pointed out “that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Or Facebooked, for that matter.

The Scriptures teach that on the day of judgement, “the books” will be “opened” and the dead “judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” It wouldn’t surprise me if one of those volumes bears the title “Facebook.”

Airing thoughts without restraint is a fool’s game, almost certain to cause harm. The biblical poet understood this and wrote a fascinating piece about it. We call it Psalm 73.

In it the writer describes a period of profound discouragement in his life. Bad people were succeeding while he failed, and he began to question God’s goodness. He even wondered whether devotion to God was a waste of time. Thinking back on that experience, he wrote, “If I’d have given in and talked like this, I would have betrayed your dear children.”

He wisely refrained from posting his thoughts on his wall. But even if he had, only a few of his neighbors would have read it. It is an entirely different matter

Shayne Looper is the pastor at the Lockwood Community Church in Coldwater, Mich. He can be reached at