Oh be careful little fingers...

November 7th, 2016

... what you type.

I grew up singing a little song at church that sounded like this:

Oh be careful little mouth what you say…
Oh be careful little feet where you go….
Oh be careful little hands what you do…
For the Father up above is looking down in love so be careful little _______ what you _________.

It wasn’t a shaming song. Instead it cautioned us to remember that our loving God wants us to express love in what we say and do. Lately, as followers of Jesus, it seems we need to add a verse to the song that says,

Oh be careful little fingers what you type.

My heart hurt recently as my social media feeds blew up with friends and strangers engaged in a dialogue about the theological positions or decisions of Christian leaders, companies and denominations. I wish I could say the tones were kind, and the conservations were productive. Here is the thing, we are passionate about our positions and feelings. While I have opinions, theological stances and feelings about all this… I turn to the Scriptures not only to seek biblical discernment regarding my personal beliefs but also for instruction on how I should discuss them with others.

The apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian believers contained some directives as a spiritual leader. He told them to stop boasting (3:21), quit quarreling (3:3), and to live in harmony with each other (1:10). Yet he also equipped the church with questions to ask when confronting divisive issues. Some of these questions included:

  • It may be allowed, but is it beneficial? (1 Corinthians 6:12) 
  • Will this absorb my attention towards God or the world? (1 Corinthians 7:30) 
  • How might this cause others to stumble? (1 Corinthians 8:9) 

I’m not wanting to stir the pot in any way. Instead, I wonder if we need to step back and sing a little Sunday school song to be a little more careful with our typing fingers. Before keyboard courage takes over and we react to articles, posts and comments, let’s take a step back and ask some similiar questions to the timeless ones Paul shared with the Corinthians church:

Will these words I’m typing be beneficial? (I’ve never met anyone argued into the kingdom with snarky comments. Productive, loving dialoguing with those on opposing sides is needed, but rude words spouted online usually do more harm than good.)

Am I getting absorbed in a fight that really isn’t mine? (Often we don’t have all the details! There is always more to the story that what is shared online. While we are called to exercise personal discernment and counsel those near us who ask for our opinion, we can get absorbed in others issues and lose sight of fighting our own personal battle with sin. Condemning others can be a distraction from dealing with our own problems.)

How might my words hurt others in their journey of faith? (Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22b-23, “Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” In my experience, the online wars of divided Christians over any given issue don’t seem to lay good groundwork for gospel conversations with those young in faith or far from God. What do you think?)

I’m not throwing away sound doctrine here. We should all wrestle through these issues through our study of God’s Word. God calls us to exercise discernment and consider what we believe, but he values humility and brokenness. Self-righteous arrogance isn’t his way. I just wonder if we might come out better wrestling more in our prayer closets than on public forums.

The church at Corinth was fighting over their own set of issues, and Paul warned them that it revealed their spiritual infancy. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3) Perhaps God would like us to mature in our disagreements so we learn and grow rather than throw stones out into the blogosphere.

Let’s allow these words of the apostle Paul to ring in our heads and hearts so that our little fingers can be careful what they type in the coming days, weeks and months:

“Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3)

Melissa Spoelstra is a popular Bible teacher, conference speaker and writer. She is the author of Total Family MakeoverJeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World and Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness. Melissa blogs at MelissaSpoelstra.com.

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