Covetousness vs. Contentment in Blogging

I’m just saving this here in case it vanishes from the web completely

APRIL 14, 2010  |  Trevin Wax 

These are my remarks at yesterday’s meeting of the Band of Bloggers 2010. You can watch the video of the event, including talks from Justin Taylor, Jared Wilson and Jon McIntosh here.

Jesus once said, One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Applying his words to blogging, we might say that One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his subscribers, trackbacks, retweets or FaceBook friends.”

At times, I think about the internet and am amazed at the opportunities. It’s like standing up on a mountaintop, watching thousands of people in different places connecting in different ways. It’s like having the world at our fingertips.

  • We have more information than we could ever hope to internalize.
  • We are able to communicate with more friends than we could ever hope to keep up with.
  • We can find new ways to promote the gospel and put out good material that builds up believers.

But while I’m standing on that mountaintop, looking out over the world wide web, I’m also conscious of that subtle, sinister voice that says, All this can be yours if you bow down and worship me.”

Wouldn’t you like a big presence in that internet world?

Wouldn’t you like more readers?

Wouldn’t you like to be on Google’s first page for search results?

So the internet (in general) and blogging (in particular) are full of promise and peril. Promise? We can serve readers by offering something of substance that will further God’s kingdom. Peril? Even our best ambitions can become swollen with self.

Covetousness is not merely a temptation that some bloggers face down the road. I’m convinced it’s often one of the reasons we bloggers begin in the first place. What exactly are we coveting? An identity. We can create an online persona. So we craft our MySpace and FaceBook pages, work to create an online presence through our blog — often as a way of being in control of how we want to be seen.

The problem with covetousness in blogging is that it robs God of glory (since we are seeking an identity apart from who we are in Christ) and it robs us of our joy in blogging (since it takes a good gift and makes it idolatrous). Instead of the blog being an exercise that turns us and our readers upward, Godward, it becomes a self-centered exercise in attracting attention to ourselves.

How can we be good stewards of a blog? How can we be righteously ambitious, while also remaining content with the audience God has given us? We need to open our hearts and examine our motivations.

Here are some diagnostic questions to consider:

  • Do your emotions ever fluctuate depending on how many hits your blog is receiving?
  • Do you enjoy the attention you get, regardless of whether it is praise or criticism?
  • Do you get depressed if certain posts don’t receive the attention you think they deserve?

I confess that I have, many times, answered yes” to those three questions. And I don’t want to stay in that place.

There are three steps toward covetousness, and we see them in the account of the Israelites in the wilderness in Numbers 11. (The three steps are alliterated, since I am after all a Southern Baptist preacher.) But each of these steps are confirmed in my own personal experience. So… I see this progression in Scripture and then see it in my own heart.

The first step is the Desire. The children of Israel had a strong craving for a food that God did not intend for them to have at that time.

Notice that the desire for food other than manna was not inherently evil. God had a land flowing with milk and honey ready for them. They weren’t meant to live on manna alone. But the timing of their desire wasn’t right. The problem was not _what _they desired, but _how_they desired.

Some of you might wish for a bigger blog. You look at a guy like Tim Challies and think, What’s Tim got that I haven’t got?” (Well, 15,000 subscribers, 6 years of daily posts, and two book deals, if we want to get specific.) You desire influence. You feel like you have something to say, something to offer in terms of online conversation. Good! Seeking greater means of influence for the kingdom is not a bad desire.

But it may be that God has not chosen to give you that platform yet. The question is – Will you be content with where you are?

So learn from the progression of the Israelites. They start with a desire, and then they Dwellon that desire. They start salivating over the food they want.

You know you’re moving away from contentment when your blog begins to consume an inordinate amount of your time or your thought processes.  Covetousness inflates your desires while it ignores the dangers.

In his book, _Rescuing Ambition, _Dave Harvey writes:

Discontentment rears its head when our ambitions are frustrated. We aspire to something that seems perfectly legit, but God seems to bail on his part of the bargain. So we stew in self-pity and wonder why God is so sloppy in the way he does business. Discontentment is a herald announcing that there was more to our ambitions than noble aspirations. And God loves us too much to keep us in the dark.”

The third step in the progression is to Denythe sufficiency of God. _Desire. Dwell. Deny._That’s the progression. I desire something good. But I dwell on that desire to the point that I no longer have Christ at the center of my focus and affections. And then, as I dwell on something other than Christ, I slowly but surely begin to deny the sufficiency of God through my actions. I are communicating to God that he is not enough for me.

The most dangerous part of coveting a big blog is that you might actually get what you want. That’s what happens to the Israelites. God says, You want quail? Fine. I’ll give you quail.” Sometimes God’s way of disciplining his children is by giving them what they ask for.

So how do we avoid covetousness in blogging? Well, I’m learning that I have to direct that three-fold progression elsewhere. We desire God above all things, we dwell on his kingdom, and we deny the characteristics of this world which lead to raw ambition and self-promotion. We seek to find contentment in Jesus Christ alone, and we discover the power to remain content through what he has done for us on the cross.

The more I pursue contentment in blogging, the more I realize that contentment is not something you get by direct pursuit. Contentment comes about by pursuing something else — namely the kingdom of God and his righteousness. When you are blogging in pursuit of that higher goal, the specifics of your stats, your Twitter follower count, your number of comments, all pale in comparison.

The way to keep your blog from becoming simply a means to increase your stature before others is to view your blog as a means to increase your service to the Lord and to his people.

The way to avoid coveting a big blog is to find contentment in a big God.

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