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What Does Jesus Say About Virtue Signaling?

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“I voted.” “Stay home, save lives.” “Mask up.” “Get vaccinated.” “I stand with Ukraine.” “I stand for the flag and kneel at the cross.” “Praying for this place that suffered such and such tragedy.” “Hashtag this. Hashtag that.” These are just a few examples of the messages with which we are inundated on Social Media. The term “virtue signaling” is now part of our daily lexicon to describe such actions.

According to Dictionary.com, virtue signaling is defined as:

“The sharing of one’s point of view on a social or political issue, often on social media, in order to garner praise or acknowledgment of one’s righteousness from others who share that point of view, or to passively rebuke those who do not.”1

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with supporting a cause. If you vote, great. If you decide that wearing a mask or getting a vaccine is best for you, then go for it. Praying for our communities and for people around the world is a great starting point. However, we must examine our motives when letting our views known. Are we just jumping on a bandwagon to get likes on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? Are you feeling social peer pressure because you haven’t chimed in on a topic? Do you just want to “raise awareness” without actually putting in any effort to help the cause or situation? Why do you even care what your Facebook friend from three jobs ago thinks about your stance on a vaccine or international affairs?

As The Bible tells us, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NKJV).

Thus, virtue signaling is nothing new, it’s just the name we call in in the 21st Century. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed such behavior regarding giving, prayer, and fasting, which can provide us with insight on how to navigate our lives.

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:1-2, NKJV).

Jesus then raises the standard for us as He explains: “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:3-4, NKJV).

Jesus goes on to explain how we should pray and fast in the same manner (Matthew 6:5-18). Jesus says when you, which means there is an expectation of being charitable, prayerful, and fasting. However, Jesus teaches us not to do things for the approval of people. Public opinion is fickle and the social causes go out of style faster than the latest fashion trends. Don’t chase trends, but follow Jesus. Don’t do it for the likes and follows, do it for the Lord.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17, NKJV).

God bless.

1 https://www.dictionary.com/browse/virtue-signaling Accessed April 24, 2022.

Living Life without Expectation

What if we were to live life without expectation? I’m not talking about a hopeless life, where we are broken and faithless, but a life where we can be at peace no matter the circumstances.

Think about this for a moment: how many times have the events of your life matched the expectations in your mind?  These misplaced expectations lead to disappointment, which can lead to discouragement, which can develop into depression, which can make us feel hopeless and purposeless. We shut out God, our loved ones, and our friends because they let us down. We loathe our jobs because the grass wasn’t as green as was promised. We are financially strapped because we decided to take a leap of faith on a new career, a bigger house, that car we always wanted, etc.

If you feel this way or spent part of your life feeling this way, it’s okay. Just take a few deep breaths. Don’t condemn yourself, but find it in your heart to forgive yourself. Ask God to forgive you. Forgive others who hurt you. You made the best choice you could at the time with the information you had. That’s life. We have to make decisions sometimes without knowing what the results will be.

What would be a good example of living life with expectation? Let’s say you have a friend who has fallen on hard times and asks you for $100 to buy groceries for his family. Maybe your friend says he’ll pay you back or you expect the money back as soon as possible. Time goes by and your friend has not given you the money. You ask about it, the friend can’t pay it back now. More time passes and you begin to resent your friend over the money. A possible lifelong friendship could be ended over $100 all because of misplaced expectations. How could this situation be handled without expectations? Your friend, who has fallen on hard times, ask you for $100 to help buy groceries for his family. You have the money and give it to your friend. Your friend offers to pay back the money, but you say, “Don’t worry about it, consider it a gift.” This changes the dynamic of the situation because you have truly been generous with no stipulations. You also have the satisfaction that your friend’s family will have food in their home.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about how we are to give to others without expecting anything in return:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:31-36, NIV).

Speaking strictly from the Christian perspective, The Bible spends a lot of verses describing how God has blessed us spiritually in Christ and the ways He will bless us when we are obedient to Him. We must tread very lightly when we read and teach these verses, because we can open up ourselves and others to disillusionment and disappointment, which can lead people to becoming soured on God and the church. There must be a balance so that unmet sky high expectations will not send believers into a soul crushing abyss.

What happens when something doesn’t work out the way it was supposed to work out? What if there is no miracle? What if the financial windfall never comes? What if our or a loved one’s suffering is never eased despite a bevy of fervent, faith-filled prayers?

As Christians and people in general, we are too prideful to say,  “I don’t know.” When it comes to matters of faith, no one wants to say, “I don’t know.” So, in order to save face or relieve the pressure of having to give an answer for why God didn’t answer a prayer, we may say such things as, “It must not have been in God’s will, plan, or timing.” “God must have something better for you” “Maybe you just need more faith.” “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” I admit that I have been on both sides of this situation- as the one with the unanswered prayer and the finite being trying to explain why the infinite and sovereign God did what He did or didn’t do. It is not comforting to be in either situation.

Is it possible for us to live a life of faith without expectation? I believe so because faith by definition is unknowable. If we knew everything coming our way (a sense of expectation), we wouldn’t need faith.  Instead of worrying about what might happen, such as What if I get cancer? What if I lose my job? What if my spouse leaves me? what if we lived life as it came to us? What if we could have peace in the midst of the unknown? I will leave you with the words of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus: “Don’t hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace.” (Enchiridion, 8).