I posted a note on Monday about Dane Ortlund’s excellent blog post on Proverbs 27:2 and self-promotion. Today, Jim Hamilton reflects on Ortlund’s essay as well. Jim argues that posting one’s teaching to the web is not inherently sinful. I agree with Jim that the matter does come down to how it’s done and the motives of one’s heart.
Still, I think we need to take Proverbs 27:2 to heart and consider what kind of culture we are creating. Are there biblical examples that might help us think through how to flesh out the wisdom of Proverbs 27:2? I think there are.
How did Jesus and the apostles get the word out about their message? My reading of the text is that they intentionally went to public places with their teaching.
Matthew 21:23 And when He had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”
Matthew 26:55 At that time Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me.”
Mark 11:17 And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations ‘? But you have made it a robbers’ den.”
Mark 12:35 And Jesus answering began to say, as He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?
Luke 19:45 And He was teaching daily in the temple; but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him.
Luke 21:37-38 Now during the day He was teaching in the temple, but at evening He would go out and spend the night on the mount that is called Olivet. And all the people would get up early in the morning to come to Him in the temple to listen to Him.
John 7:14 But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach.
To be sure, Jesus had profound theological motivations for teaching in the temple. He himself would replace the temple as the locus of Israel’s worship. That being said, the temple was the place where people gathered, and everyone knew that to teach there was to put your teaching before a crowd of people. And yet there was nothing inherently sinful about taking a message to the temple.
What about the apostles?
Acts 5:19-21, 42 But an angel of the Lord during the night opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, “Go your way, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” And upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak, and began to teach… And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
In Acts 5:19-21, God commands Peter and John to go public in the temple with the message, and in verse 42 it is clear that this was their daily practice. If you combine this observation with Paul’s pattern of travelling to populous cities, speaking in synagogues (Acts 13:40-41; 14:1; 17:1-2; 19:8), and other public places (Acts 13:44; 17:19), then one gets the impression that putting one’s teaching in front of as many people as possible is no vice. Instead, it is just what we would expect of a gospel that was made to be taken public (Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 15:20).
So what’s the difference between the self-promotion condemned in Proverbs 27:2 and the pattern of Jesus and the apostles? Perhaps Paul answers this best in Philippians 1:
12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear… 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice… 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Paul cites both the motive for preaching and the substance of it. When the motive is to exalt Christ and when the subject matter is the gospel of Christ, then putting the message in front of as many people as possible is a good thing.
What are the implications of this for us? How do we sustain a healthy online culture and heed the words Proverbs 27:2 while going public with our teaching as Jesus and the apostles did? My answer is this. Don’t be self-promotional. Be Christ-promotional both in heart and in deed. If we can do that in all of our teaching and in every blog post, tweet, and status update that references that teaching, then we can exalt Christ.
Let’s pray the Lord to help us do just that.