Courtesy is the oil that lubricates the fine machinery of civilization. L. R. Barnard
I can see it now, an ad headline on Yahoo or Youtube: SECRET BIBLE CODE PREDICTS FACEBOOK SUCCESS! We are such suckers for looney lines like this that it would likely get a million clicks. The surprising thing is that the headline is true, from a certain point of view.
I discovered this by doing something else you will no doubt find looney: Reading Proverbs backwards.
Before you call for the guys in white jackets, let me explain. I read the Book of Proverbs through two or three times a year. Every time its accuracy and insight fascinates and instructs. But the phrases and cadences have become so familiar that I found I was just passing through, ignoring the scenery the way you do on an oft-traveled road. So I decided to read the book in reverse order. That’s when things started to pop, especially regarding FACEBOOK.
I am a daily FACEBOOK visitor. Sometimes it is a time waster. But other times it is, as it was designed to be, a great facilitator of relationships. Given the shredding of our sense of community in the last fifty years FACEBOOK, and mediums like it, is increasing our ability to know and understand one another across the artificial divides created by our suburbanized, isolated, hyper-mobile car-culture. It is the electronic front porch where neighbors stop briefly for a friendly chat, share helpful information, and strengthen the bonds of civilization. That’s a good thing, usually.
Then there’s the dark side of FACEBOOK, the crude comments, political rants, and thoughtless posts and re-posts that in a public setting, even with neighbors on one’s own front porch, we wouldn’t normally utter. FACEBOOK can’t recreate the proximity that prevents us from disgracing ourselves and as a result people have lost friends, jobs, opportunities, careers, and reputations, sometimes permanently. As a result most large employers now have strict social media rules in place and restrict access on their in-house networks.
That’s why THE FACEBOOK PROVERBS are so important. They were written long ago for a people trying to achieve honorable community in the land of Israel. Their composer and compiler, Solomon, was one of the most wise and successful leaders who ever lived. Using them as a guide to all of our social posts will help us achieve that rarest of cultural commodities: courtesy. They are marked in the margin of my Bible with a large F and now that this post has grown so long I will only share a few in hopes that they will whet your appetite to look for more. You will be amazed at how relevant they are.
A fool finds no pleasure in understanding
but delights in airing his own opinions. Pr. 18:2
A fool’s lips bring him strife,
and his mouth invites a beating.
A fool’s mouth is his undoing,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to a man’s inmost parts. Pr. 18:6-8
Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud,
but humility comes before honor.
He who answers before listening—
that is his folly and his shame. Pr. 18:12-13
The first to present his case seems right,
till another comes forward and questions him. Pr. 18:17
From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is filled;
with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied.
The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit. Pr. 18:20-21
One last one is not from The Book of Proverbs but from the late L. R. Barnard, professor of Historical Theology:
Cultivate courtesy gentlemen; it is the oil that lubricates the fine machinery of civilization.
Now, I wonder how many clicks this title will get.