Don’t Instagram Your Godliness

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This should come as no surprise to anyone, but at risk of repeating the obvious: We’re living in the internet age. We communicate through emojis, learn through videos, and keep up through pictures. We have surmounted the limitations of space, breaking her hold on us, as we can communicate just as easily with those who live across the country as with those who live across the street. But we’re not just inhabitants of the internet age. We’re Christian inhabitants of the internet age.

And we want our online identity to reflect that. We ask ourselves “If someone looked solely at my profile, would they think I’m a Christian?”

So we saturate our online selves with spirituality. We post inspirational verses edited over sunrise stock-photos. We share the coffee-and-Jesus picture. We tweet a quote from today’s devotional; we make sure we pray a nice, theological, long prayer in our group. And everyone can see very well how much we love Jesus and what good Christians we are.

Now, I’m not saying it’s wrong for us to share online so others can see our good works.

Jesus is.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:1-2) ESV

But we want others to see all the good we’re doing. We want others to recognize how well we’re doing. Especially at the start of this new year, the adrenaline rush that comes from every little thumb and heart on our spiritual post ensures that we read (and post about it) again tomorrow.

And it’s not inherently wrong to post a picture of your Bible or something you’ve been learning or something God’s showed you. But we need to take a long, hard look at the reasons fueling them. Because if we’re doing our “deeds to be seen of others” (Matthew 23:5), then we’re doing them amiss.

I’m just as guilty. I once hiked up a (small) mountain on a Sunday morning, for a time of just me and God and my Bible. Except it wasn’t. It wasn’t just me and God and my Bible. It was me and God and my Bible and the entirety of my friends and the world that I invited to invade my quiet time. Because as I hiked, I paused every few minutes to get a shot of the scenery. At each turn, my brain was busy thinking up good analogies or lessons to post. At the top, I spent fifteen minutes trying to angle my Bible so that both it and the valley below were in focus.

On my Instagram, it looked lovely. It documented a restful morning, spent dwelling in His creation and presence. Quiet, renewing, focused, and worshipful, right? Wrong.

We do these thing because we all want others to think well of us. To the world, this desire looks like wanting the nicest clothes, or the fastest car, or the most well-paying job. But we’re Christians now, so we don’t care about that — or rather, we’ve “Christianized” our desires. We want the nicest Bibles, or the fastest verse-reference recall, or the most ministry work we’re juggling. We want others to think well of our spiritualness. We’d like everyone to see and acknowledge how we’re so very mature and wise and spiritual. But that’s the exact opposite of what Jesus wants.

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. These actions can be real. I’ve met people who are so buried in scripture that verses naturally flow out of them when they speak — and that’s good. I’ve met people who love Jesus so much that they pray for a long time because they want to just keep talking to Him — and that’s good. I’ve met people who share wisdom solely to bless others, who post truth because that’s what they’re full of, who can’t help but proclaim faithfulness because it is the natural outpouring of their lives. It’s beautiful, powerful, and real.

But the great horror of the perverted is not that it’s so very different, but that it’s so very like. You can’t quite pinpoint the difference, but it drags truth into the uncanny valley, and the imitation becomes but a mockery.

But Jesus is never satisfied with a forgery, however alike it may be.

He tells us to serve Him, and Him alone. So when we pray, do it in our closets (or room, or somewhere alone), for there are no admirers to applaud us there. When we give, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, for then you will have no desire to post pictures of the smiling children we helped for our own praise. When we give up or put away things, smile and be yourself; for then we can’t post and boast about our own spiritualness and goodness to all the world. For if we did, that’s all the reward we would get anyway.

So before you post, before you share, think. Am I doing this to share God’s love and glory? Or am I doing this to gain myself love and glory? The point is not to never share or never post. (And that’d be rather ironic, considering the entirety of this blog consists of me sharing what God’s been teaching me.) God Himself tells us to “[d]eclare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.” (Psalm 96:3) But when we share for the praise of men, that’s all the reward we’ll get. And He wants to give us so much more than that.

All we can earn is likes and shares and tweets. But He can give us Life and glory and a mansion along the golden streets. So don’t feel like you have to Instagram your godliness to win the favor of men. Because the favor of God is worth so much more.

“[A]nd thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:18)

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20 thoughts on “Don’t Instagram Your Godliness

  1. Wow, this was really eye opening for me, Belle! Thank you so much for sharing, this is something that I’ve thought about too. It’s almost like you’re not a good Christian if you don’t post a verse a day or whatever and it’s all like the Pharisees of Bible times who only did good things outwardly to be seen of people. I’m definitely going to be checking my heart attitude from now on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, so much shame can factor in to the reasons why we feel we must post. But how wonderful it is that there’s no good Christians, only a good Christ. May we all seek His approval alone! Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is really good and convicting! As a fellow blogger (well, a sporadic one), I find it’s hard to balance being open and broken, but also not sharing things that are better kept private. I’ve also found that it’s easy to display a sort of showy humility, the kind that will make everyone look at me and go, “Wow, she’s so humble!”, rather than looking at God and seeing how great He is.
    Oh, the coffee and Jesus thing…I have to say, that drives me absolutely nuts! I saw cups at Hobby Lobby that said something like “Give me coffee and Jesus” the other day, and I actually almost knocked the cups off the shelf and stomped on them. So, yes, don’t ever equate coffee with Jesus, or I’ll get really mad :).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, this is even harder for us bloggers! Our job is to share, but we don’t want to share to get others to read, but we want others to read, that’s why we share, and… it’s a mess sometimes XD But God gives grace to our messiness!
      Well then, I think I’m pretty safe from your wrath, as I really don’t like coffee very much. 🙂

      Like

  3. Wow. Ouch. Yeah, definitely guilty of this. I know it’s a constant struggle when I go to post something, to keep my attitude where it should be–whether it’s a “spiritual” post, or just artsy. 😛 Thank you so much for the encouragement!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well said, Belle! This has been a definite struggle for me, though perhaps in a different way. I don’t think I’m the only one, but I do know that I often post things hungrily waiting for replies that will make me feel better. Not so much in a “look at me” way, but “notice my cry for help/prayer”. It’s better in those cases just to actually talk to someone about your struggle. Get real help, not likes and comments. People mean well, but they can’t help you online like they can in person, or even over the phone. To tie this all back into what you are saying, sometimes I will post things that are spiritual (often a poem and Bible verses), that is pretty normal for me, but now and then I do it not to be a blessing, but to fish for blessings from others. Like you are saying, it’s the wrong motivation. Someone may say “That’s wonderful”, but if I actually felt terrible when I posted it, is that the kind of blessing I really need? Sorry if this doesn’t quite fit with what you are saying, but it is a struggle I have at times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I understand what you’re saying, and thank you for sharing your thoughts! That’s another aspect of the great loss of our culture, seeking authenticity and losing it in the process. And struggling to get your attention, your help, your blessing, from the realm of the internet is something I can find myself easily falling into. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

      Like

  5. I needed this, Belle! I have been debating whether or not I want to delete my social media accounts by summertime. I keep thinking “but social media is a way I can ‘evangelize– I can’t delete my accounts!'” However, this blog post reassured me that I am only making up excuses. Social Media is an easy obsession turned addiction.
    And a HUGE thank you! So many people do use their “quiet time with God” as an Instagramable (if that’s a word. Lol!) moment. I’m guilty as well. It’s something I believe needs to be addressed among millennials.
    All this to say, thanks for sharing! I really appreciate it. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! This article was just one side of a nuanced issue, but I’m glad God could use it with where He’s leading you right now.
      (And yes, that’s totally a word. I think. Probably? Isn’t everyone just making up words now to define things on social media? That’s what we’re going to go with at least, so that we feel like we fit in. 😀 )

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, so challenging Belle!
    I know how easy that is, to deceive ourselves into thinking we’re posting this or that for God, but in reality it’s only feeding our pride at times.
    Amen though, like you said, may we do *everything* for the glory of God, and Him alone!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks so much for writing this! I have been studying the Sermon on the Mount lately and have been super challenged by the message and wondering how to apply it to my life! I have been realizing a hidden motive in so much of what I do: to bring glory to myself. This post added to that and helped word a lot of my thoughts. Thanks for sharing(=

    Liked by 1 person

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