“One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound wisdom.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
A few years ago, Southwest Airlines did an ad campaign with the slogan, “Wanna get away?” Each of the commercials featured someone accidentally finding themselves in a horribly embarrassing situation. For example, a delivery man grabs a basketball in a driveway after making his delivery to a house, and with the homeowners both working in the yard and watching him, takes a shot on the goal which misses entirely and instead smashes through their garage window. Then there’s the guy trying to impress a girl with his dance moves who accidentally takes out the whole DJ stand, shutting down the entire club. We have all experienced times when we just wanted to get away from it all and forget about everything going on around us. But if we’re not careful, that getting away can translate into wanting to not be around people at all. Having times of solitude is good, but we need people. This proverb reminds us of why.
One of the impacts of Covid on much of the world has been isolation. It has forced us to be apart in ways we weren’t expecting and weren’t prepared to handle. Yes, the amount of digital interaction we have has skyrocketed, but as we all came to realize rather quickly, digital and personal are not the same. The former is simply not as good as the latter. Sure, in my world, things like digital small groups were a blessing early on in the pandemic when it was that or nothing, but at least around my house, it lost its luster rather quickly.
I suspect this kind of digital fatigue was more widespread around our culture and world than just my household. This has left everyone with a choice to make: Engage with people and risk getting Covid, or stay away from people and deal with all the social and personal risks that involves. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Yet with natural and vaccine immunity become ever more common, life is slowly starting to move back toward normal. We’re not there yet, and omicron has in some ways left us feeling like we’re back in the early days of the pandemic, but we are at least moving in the right direction.
The challenge we are facing now, though, is that Covid set in place new patterns that we are finding hard to break. These new patterns are leaving us more isolated than we were before. The effects of this aren’t immediately obvious, but the fruit is starting to come to bear, and it isn’t sweet. The biggest reason for this is that we weren’t made for isolation. We need other people. We need them, as Solomon points out, to act as a kind of check on our own desires which otherwise run unchecked. And being around other people online is not the same as facing them in person.
One of the deep truths of Scripture is that we are broken by sin. To use the theological phrase, we are total depraved. Although we aren’t as bad as we could be, we are broken at every point. Every part of our processes of thinking and reasoning are corrupted. Our desires are for things they should not be. When left to our own devices, this brokenness tends to rise to the surface. Ideas which when checked by even a single other person would be rejected outright as obviously wrong, suddenly begin to sound not only plausible, but even worth pursuing. This problem is what Solomon hits right on the head with this proverb: One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound wisdom.”
Let me make a statement that may be a little offensive, but which if you’ll give a little bit of consideration, is more than likely right on the money. You’re no good on your own. I don’t mean you aren’t capable of doing great things. I don’t mean you are utterly dependent on the people around you. I mean that when you are on your own and isolated from people, you aren’t good. You don’t make good decisions. You make decisions that benefit you and nobody else. You start to think of yourself more than anyone else and behaving accordingly. You’re willing to explore things online or post things on social media that you wouldn’t even consider if you had someone else to whom you were going to be accountable (and digital accountability is about as good as no accountability at all). In other words, and again, you’re no good on your own.
Am I right?
If you don’t believe me, just look around a bit. Think about the state of social media and the direction it is clearly heading. Think about the ways we interact with one another. It’s not pretty.
The biggest question, though, is what we can do about this? More specifically, what can you do about this to get your own tendencies under control? Allow me to offer a suggestion that may seem wildly self-serving given that I am a pastor. It doesn’t it any less true. You need to be in church. I don’t just mean you need to show up on Sundays and otherwise do life the way you were doing it before making that slight adjustment. You need to get involved in a body of believers. You need to be in worship with a community. You need to be studying the Scriptures each day alongside other believers who are equally committed to getting themselves into the text and the text into themselves. You need to be in a small group that learns together, and which holds one another accountable in some form or fashion. You need regular and healthy fellowship with people who are going to ask how you are really doing and expect an honest answer. You need to be actively serving people whose situations are worse than you own alongside brothers and sisters in Christ in order to advance His kingdom into their lives and beyond.
And if you’re not someone who would claim any kind of allegiance to Christ, you need to get that fixed. You won’t find any other kind of community like the community of faith. It simply doesn’t exist. And you need it to exist. Because you’re no good on your own. So, make yourself better with people; people who will point you to Jesus and help you walk with Him with faithfulness and consistency. This Sunday is a great time to get started. And if you’re already started, it’s a great time to invest even more. You’ll be better for it.