Although opportunities to jump into discussions on social media abound, how should we decide whether we should enter a particular discussion that we come across that is of interest to us? Proverbs 26:17 provides some wise counsel that we would do well to consider carefully before entering into an online discussion.
Divine Advice to Those Who Pass By a Situation involving Strife
Through teaching that God inspired King Solomon to give, God warns those who pass by certain situations to avoid unnecessary involvement:
Pro 26:17 He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.
Charles Bridges aptly explains this important teaching:
Even with Christian intentions many of us are too fond of meddling with strife not belonging to us. We constitute ourselves too readily judges of our neighbour’s conduct. Neutrality is often the plain dictate of prudence. Un-called for interference seldom avails much with the contending parties; while the well-meaning mediator involves himself in the strife to his own mischief.1
Jay Adams concurs:
In verses 17 through 19 you meet two kinds of troublemakers. The first is the one who loves quarreling so much that he will even become involved in disputes that have nothing to do with him. To do so is like grabbing a dog by the ears (presumably not Fido, but someone else’s dog who is anything but friendly). He will get a reaction: often a hostile, possibly harmful one. He brings trouble on himself.2
Heeding God’s warning given in Proverbs 26:17 will save us from much unnecessary trouble in our lives.
Application to Discussions on Social Media
God does not want us to meddle unnecessarily in strife that does not belong to us. When we encounter discussions on social media on subjects that interest us, we must take care not to jump in simply because the discussion is about something that we have an opinion about that we want to share.
Rather, we must gauge carefully the nature of the interaction that is already taking place between those who are discussing the subject. Especially if the discussion is of a heated nature and concerns something that does not have some direct pertinence to us, we often would do well to be slow to get involved.
If we know one or more of the combating parties personally, often a better approach is to message those people privately and share our thoughts with them that way. I have used this approach a number of times and commend it to you as a way for you to avoid unnecessarily entangling yourself in an online discussion in a way that results in your being attacked for what you say.
1 Proverbs, Geneva Series of Commentaries, 494; words in bold are in italics in the original
2 Proverbs, The Christian Counselor’s Commentary, 200; words in bold are bold in the original