I am not an early adopter. (But it’s okay; neither was Jesus. More on that, later.) However, with the possibility of a new position looming on the horizon that might benefit from some adeptitude at social media, I’m toe-dipping in Twitter (@tamday121, for those keeping score at home). And reading up a bit — yeah, I still like paper.
(Aside: this is an old habit. When my mother gave me her circa 1950s sewing machine, back in the early ’90s, I went to the library for a book to learn machine sewing. Which was cool … because the library’s book also came from the — you got it — 1950s. The sewing machine was aqua; so was the book’s cover. They also agreed on the mysteries of bobbins, which still baffle me. But I can thread ’em.)
So, my paper guru on social media is the darling of Unmarketing, Scott Stratten. Dubious as I was, suspecting old wine in new wineskins, I did appreciate his opening word: step one in engaging yourself with others is to be yourself … and if you need to take a little time to figure that out, well, that’s a good use of your time. To wit:
Authenticity in business is all about realizing that your strongest asset in your company should be you. When you stop trying to pretend to be like other people and focus on your own strengths, you bring authenticity to the table.
I know, it sounds — and is — obvious. But is it really so easy, living an authentic life in an increasingly inauthentic world? Or, as my beloved M put it, living an integrated life in a disintegrating world. (Yep, that’ll preach.)
As I was taking that in, I came across a quote from Neil Postman in a Writer’s Almanac entry. Postman, the author of Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, was describing our reverence for and dependence on technology, to the point of deification (i.e., making-a-god-of) and totalitarian status (i.e., making-it-the-be-all-and-end-all). All this back in 1993 (pre-Facebook). Here’s Postman:
Why do we think technology is above morality …? The real question is, “How should I conduct my life?” rather than “What tools should I use?”
Right. So, before I worry about which blogging format to use and what my Twitter handle should be and how to integrate my platforms, I should be sure I know the answer to How should I conduct my life? Fortunately, I was working on that already … unfortunately, I am still working on it, and likely will be for the rest of my life. Luddite all the way around.
Fortunately, this is the exact question Jesus faced, early on, and we get the story of it in one of this week’s texts, Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus has just been pronounced the Son of God, the Beloved, by God’s own self. Yeah … that’s going to lead to some questions. So Jesus is led by the Spirit out into the wilderness (like the Israelites) to be tempted by the devil.
The devil asks three questions. One, he says, “I know you’re starving. You haven’t eaten for 40 days and nights. Since you’re God’s own Son, turn these stones into bread.”
The trick here is to notice the plural: stones into bread — i.e., multiple loaves of bread. One loaf would have been more than enough for Jesus. So … the idea is, bread enough for all the hungry people. Use God’s power to gain social power.
Jesus says, “No, humans don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Note, Jesus identifies himself as a human, who listens to the words God speaks and uses them, even though they’re old school (Deuteronomy. That’s old.) I’d say, round one to Jesus.
So, the devil takes Jesus up onto a pinnacle of the temple, and says “Since you are the Son of God, you can throw yourself down from here and the angels will catch you.” Implication: then everyone in the temple precincts will know you are the Son of God. No further proof required. Great religious mojo in that.
“Nope,” Jesus says, “the written word says, ‘Don’t put God to the test,'” and he refuses the circus sideshow approach to religious power. Round two to Jesus.
For the last challenge, the devil takes Jesus up on a high mountain, where they can see all the kingdoms of the world, and says, “I’ll give you all this, if you will fall down and worship me.” There it is: all the political power Jesus could ever want, to right wrongs, correct injustices, feed hungry people and put them to work. Just, you know, worship the devil.
“Get away, Satan! The word says, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only God.” And at Jesus’ command, Satan is gone, taking his idolatries with him. Round three to Jesus.
There are lots of ways to interpret this story, its context and its purpose. Today I’m thinking about the real question underlying all the Satanic inquisition: not whether Jesus is the Messiah — Satan heard the declaration just like Jesus did — but what kind of Messiah is Jesus going to be?
The answer to that question comes out of Jesus knowing who he is, and what his business is. He is God’s beloved, and he trusts in the Word and Love of God. He doesn’t need social power, religious power or political power to do the love of God. He’s not going to be a Roman Messiah, with bread and circuses, armies and violence; he’s not going to be a religious charlatan with flashy miracles. Why?
Because Jesus has faith in the authentic human self God created him to be. He can’t be tempted to be something else, or belong to anything else. As the saying goes, he knows who he is, and whose he is.
I’m thinking that’s true for all of us: we are strongest when we are becoming who God created us to be, our authentic selves, even when that self has little social power, religious power, or political power. To choose anything else is to succumb to temptation, and to end up separated not only from our authentic selves, but from God and neighbor.
Easy, you say? Well, then, you are ahead of me. “Authentic” may be so last century … but I am still working on it.
Lead us not into temptation
and deliver us from evil