Do you struggle to be content when you look at photos of your Facebook friends’ home renovations or beach vacations? Or do you fight the desire to show off your own material blessings to impress others? Both? If so, you are in good company. Or maybe not good company, but certainly lots of company. I haven’t taken a poll or looked at the data, but I would bet that most of us experience these challenges as we interact online. We know that social media breeds discontentment and offers temptation galore, whether you consider yourself a Have or a Have Not. The Haves face temptation to flaunt the privileges they enjoy, and the Have Nots deal with the temptation to be envious and judgmental of those who have more. These temptations may feel unavoidable, but if we all act in love for God and one another, we can avoid succumbing to them.
First, we must acknowledge that really, we are all Haves. If you have breath in your lungs and senses that work to read this, you are already a Have. It would be more accurate to call ourselves the Haves and the Have Mores. Yet we do differ in how much we have, and those differences are not wrong. The Bible has plenty to say about poverty and riches, but nowhere does it say that we should all have the same amount of wealth or that it is most virtuous to have more or to have less. Our material goods are gifts from God—whether they are greater than our neighbor’s or less—and we are called to steward them accordingly.
God gives commands to every socioeconomic bracket. He commands the rich to be generous. (1 Timothy 6:17-19). He commands the poor to be content with what they have (Philippians 4:11-13). And he commands all of us, wherever we fall on that spectrum, to act in love toward one another (1 Peter 4:8).
Social media gives us a unique insight into the wealth of our friends. Sometimes, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the wealthy display their blessings in snapshots of their homes, possessions, activities, or vacations. And sometimes those who have less feel tempted to envy or covet the blessings of others. While social media gives us unique temptations, it also provides unique opportunities to love one another.
If you are wealthy, you can love your poorer brothers and sisters by resisting the urge to flaunt your blessings. There’s no need to show every good gift you have received online. You should examine your motives before you post photos and updates, and in love, consider if what you’re sharing is edifying or self-aggrandizing. You are to be generous with the money you have, remembering that it is ultimately a gift from God that is to be used for His kingdom.
If you are poor, you can love your wealthier brothers and sisters by not begrudging them their material blessings. You are not to be judgmental or suspicious of them. In fact, you ought to rejoice with them and be content with what God has given you, remembering that life itself is an unmerited blessing.
None of us falls solidly into the category of the rich or the poor. We all have friends who have more and friends who have less. That means that both sets of guidelines apply to us. None of us should show off our blessings or envy what others have. All of us should choose to be satisfied with our blessings, rejoice with those who have more, and be generous toward those who have less. In all things, including what we post and how we view what others post, we should let love for God and one another rule our actions.