A reader has written:“I really appreciated an article you wrote concerning gossip, etc., on the Internet. I think that needs to be stepped on from time to time so I would like to see your article repeated periodically.”
We were not keen to address the issue again until some personal incidents sharpened our awareness of the continuing problem. Within period of a few weeks, we became privy to uncharitable slander in an email exchange, flagrant discourtesy by making private correspondence public on the Internet, and it was drawn to our attention what can only be described as theft of a personal letter that was somehow intercepted and put out for all to read. We are dismayed because in person those involved seem to be principled people of above-average courtesy and consideration. Why this seeming personality change when email is involved?
What’s going on here?
Perhaps we could see this as the general breakdown in godly behavior predicted for the last days: “You must realize that in the last days the times will be full of danger. Men will become utterly self-centered…full of big words. They will be proud…without any regard for what their parents taught them…They will be men of unscrupulous speech…They will be passionate and unprincipled…” (II Tim. 3:1-5 JBP).
It may be that modern technology has given opportunity for what’s really inside us to come out in the open. That could be.
We suspect there’s another factor at work as well. There is a certain “other worldliness” to the Internet almost as if it’s detached from normal standards. Messages wing off on unseen wave lengths as if we’re in a make-believe world. We don’t exercise the same care for spelling and grammar that we would when carefully writing a letter. There’s also a certain impersonality to the chatting environment without seeing the person face to face. It’s very easy to forget all of this is real and subject to the same divine standards as any other aspect of our behavior. The atmosphere is such that we can slip into a manner of thinking that is as old as Cain: we’re not thinking about God so He’s not thinking about us nor reading our emails. Yet we are reminded over and over in scripture that everything is open to the eyes of our Heavenly Father and to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Windows of the heart
In this month’s Minute Meditation, Bro. Bob Lloyd addresses this very matter: “God does not need a window to see what is in our hearts. Jeremiah tells us, ‘I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve’” (Jer. 17:10). This was a steady theme of God’s message through Jeremiah: “For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes” (Jer. 16:17).
In spite of Jeremiah’s pointed warnings, however, the leaders of Israel thought they could hide their idolatry from God by setting up in the chambers beneath the court of the temple. In vision, God took Ezekiel to Jerusalem at the very time Jeremiah was active so that Ezekiel could write:
And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, ‘Son of man, dig now in the wall:’ and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. And he said unto me, ‘Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here…Then said he unto me, ‘Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, ‘The LORD seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth’ (Ezk. 8:7-12).
We contemplate the scene and wonder, “Were they mad; did they think they could hide from God, who knows our very thoughts let alone our hidden actions?” But the problem is very common. Ananias and Sapphira thought they could lie to God in conspiring to look like model disciples while holding back part of the price of property they sold. Bro. Tom Barling draws our attention to this incident in his article on the parable of the vine. “Ananias and Sapphira practiced duplicity to deceive Peter and the other apostles. They were unmasked by Peter and paid the ultimate penalty” (Acts 5:1-10).
How Ananias and Sapphira could do this in the face of Israel’s history must astonish us. Not far from Jerusalem a valley was named for a prominent mound of stones in its midst. It provided a perpetual reminder of the sin of Achan who thought he could hide his iniquity from God. In the course of destroying Jericho, Achan “saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight.” In his own words he describes his sin: “I coveted them, and took them; and behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.” He thought if they were out of his sight they were out of God’s sight. His sin was forever commemorated for, upon the ultimate penalty, “They raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day…Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor (trouble), unto this day” (Josh. 7:21-26).
Here was a geographic feature specifically designed to remind future generations of Israelites that God sees everything. Yet in spite of prophetic warnings and geographic reminders the problem persisted, as David lamented, it is the perpetual conceit of the wicked that God doesn’t see his iniquity: “He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it” (Psa. 10:11).
A great irony
While the wicked hope God doesn’t read their hearts and see their actions, the believer rejoices that the Lord hears unspoken prayers and listens to the yearnings of our hearts. As the late Sis. Mary Eyre wrote regarding Hagar: it was a great joy to this woman when, “It dawned on her that Abraham’s God not only knew that she existed, heard everything she said and even her innermost thoughts, but cared for her.”
We want God to see our needs and ease our fears; we want Him to hear our yearnings for the return of Christ and witness the compassion of our hearts. We want Him to read our emails of loving concern for the sick and those which reach out to the lonely and depressed. It is thus a great irony for us to think we can get away with slander, rude behavior, and gossip on the Internet as if the Lord only sees what we want Him to. We can’t have one without the other. “For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings…The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Prov. 5:21; 15:3)
Let us make a deliberate effort to use the technology of our time for good and not for ill, for the Lord pondereth all our doings and looks for us to seek Him with all our hearts.