What Virtue Are You Signaling?
Updated: Jul 14
Greetings Narrow Gate,
As I begin today I want to be careful. I do not want to sound condescending or presumptuous in any way. However, I want to warn you about an activity that many people participate in that involves the use of social media. Like many of our other sinful activities it begins innocently enough. I want you to be aware that this activity can lead to sinful actions. The activity is virtue signaling.
During the isolation from this pandemic many of us are out of our normal element. We are alone, away from others, craving contact and community. This creates a need, the need to be accepted, which can be a very strong need in most humans. This makes us very vulnerable to the temptation of virtue signaling. We make a couple tweets and ding dong, we are accepted online by a certain group or organization. Yabba dabba do! We feel great and we are now a part of a community. Let's do it again.
This then can grow and become a self-gratifying coping mechanism as it is with gambling, pornography, cigarettes and drug use and other activities. Very addictive, and very hard to quit.
So let's start today with a definition of virtue signaling.
"the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one's good character or the moral correctness of one's position on a particular issue." (Oxford Languages)
A few points of interest about virtue signaling:
* to properly virtue signal one must speak, tweet or text publicly. Virtue signaling is for public consumption. It doesn't work unless others hear or read what a person has to say.
* this activity is for an individual who wishes to promote themselves for others, proving their group think allegiance to whatever group that they are trying to impress.
* proper virtue signaling sometimes requires the virtue signaler to say that they hate things, frequently. They can like things too. But the hate comments score more points with the group they are trying to impress.
* virtue signaling is an extension of political correctness and foundational to personal brand creation.
* virtue signaling is in widespread use not just by individuals, political groups, religious groups and government bureaucratic groups, but also businesses in their advertising.
* the virtue signaler may not really have the virtues they are promoting. They can be posing with insincere sentiments.
* because of these and other reasons, virtue signaling inhibits effective, truthful and sincere communication.
Virtue signaling has become so popular today that we are even virtue signaling through actions, not just words. You can't just say something, you have to do it. This has allowed the development of thought police who now are in charge of what we can or cannot think, can or cannot say, and apparently also in charge of what we can or cannot make a big bronze statue of.
Not that I care to make a bronze statue of anything or anyone. I'm not into the idol worship thing. We are all sinners saved by grace. My last comment on this: Leave Elvis alone, as well as, the graves of those who died in service to their country. Sorry, I went down a rabbit hole.
This is all an example of ineffective and insincere communication. This is not how God wants us to convey meanings, understandings and concerns to one another. If I never hear another commercial with one of these lead ins I will not be disappointed:
"during these trying times"
"during these uncertain times"
"during these difficult times"
"during these challenging times"
"during these stressful times"
This is an obvious example of corporate virtue signaling. This virtual signaling is continuing, on and on and on, with no end in sight. I get it. The companies want us to know they feel our pain. I will do business with the company that tells me they hope I don't die from Covid-19 so that they can sell me stuff and make money. That's the truth and there's nothing wrong with that. 2 Corinthians 2:17,
"For we are not, like so many peddlers of God's word, but men and women of sincerity , as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ."
If we virtue signal we are not speaking for God's glory, we are speaking for our glory. This means that we have taken our eyes off of Christ and are primarily concerned with impressing others, and not with pleasing God. When this is our motivation, Paul speaks of these words and deeds as chaff. These are things we do and say to promote anything but Christ. We will be judged on all of our words and deeds. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, this is Paul.
"I, like a master builder who knows his job, by the grace God has given me, lay the foundation; someone else builds upon it. I say only this, let the builder be careful how he or she builds! The foundation is laid already, and no one can lay another, for it is Jesus Christ himself. But any person who builds on the foundation using as his material gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or stubble, must know that each individual's work will one day be shown for what it is. The (Judgment) Day will show it plainly enough, for the day will arise in a blaze of fire, and that fire will prove the nature of each believer's work. If the work that one has built upon the foundation will stand this test, they will be rewarded. But if their work is destroyed under the test, they lose it all. They will be personally safe (salvation), though rather like a person rescued from a fire."
If we are glorifying anything but Christ in our words and deeds, these deeds are not worthy of eternal benefit. They when tested are considered as trash, chaff to be burned, our modern day leaves at the curb for pick up. This also means that our witness will be flawed and insincere, because we are trying to impress others, not love and lead them. Titus 2:7-8,
"In all your teaching show the strictest regard for truth, and show that you appreciate the seriousness of the matters you are dealing with. Your speech should be unaffected and logical, so that your opponent may feel ashamed at finding nothing in which to pick holes."
We have to be sincere in our love and concern for those we serve. We cannot speak truth if we are insincere. What virtue is it that we are virtue signaling? Why are we virtue signaling in the first place? I would like to think that my behavior and actions, and my spoken words are visible enough to others that I would not have to signal my virtues to others. I pray that my life is an example of virtue, Christ-like virtue, not Thad Brown's version of virtue, Is any of this to glorify our Lord and Savior? Are we pleasing God or just trying to gain acceptance into an adult version of a high school clique?
No wonder the world is confused by our messages. We need to focus on being sincere to those we serve, not impressing them. I understand that much of this virtue signaling is from the social media frenzy that so many take part in today. But please don't lose focus of the primary message for all believers, Jesus Christ himself. Jesus is not owned by any political party, or race, creed or nationality. Don't let what you would like to be good deeds and words, by forgetting Christ, paint yourself into a corner spiritually. Joshua
"Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord."
This is great advice from Joshua. We all have an interest in collecting modern day gods, do we not? Come on, admit it. Let's get rid of these modern day false idols. Let us not fear what other humans think of us.
Let us be true to our God. Let's do the right things for the right reasons and not do things to gain acceptance and approval. This leads to deceit and deception. If we are motivated by a fear of physical harm and not just approval and acceptance, this then can lead to mob rule, which we are seeing in some instances today. 2 Corinthians 1:12-13,
"Now it is a matter of pride to us--endorsed by our conscience--that our activities in this world, particularly our dealings with you, have been absolutely above board and sincere before God. They have not been marked by any worldly wisdom, but by the grace of God. Our letters to you have no double meaning--they mean just what you understand them to mean when you read them."
Sadly, the day seems fast approaching when we can trust little of that which is told us through the media or our political leaders. Hear this lament of Paul, for his Jewish brothers and sisters who do not know Christ. See if, like me, you identify with Paul's words. Romans 9:1-4,
"Before Christ and my own conscience in the Holy Spirit I assure you that I am speaking the plain truth when I say that there is something that makes me feel very depressed, like a pain that never leaves me. It is the condition of my brothers and sisters and fellow Israelites, and I have actually reached the point of wishing myself cut off from Christ if it meant that they could be won for God."
I feel this way at times. I know that many of you are feeling this same angst, especially as we watch the news, and see the pictures, and hear the words. Especially after a weekend of murder and violence in big cities across this country. Let it not be any of us that are causing these feelings I pray. Let our words be sincere, loving, uplifting and of benefit to God's kingdom, worthy to be associated with Christ. Let's put down our phones and pick up our Bibles. I didn't say throw away your phones. Just put them down for a little while everyday. Trust me, you will feel better. Let's do the right things for the right reasons, together.
I would like to finish today with a prayer. Let us unite our hearts before God and seek his guidance and cleansing.
Let us pray,
Our most precious heavenly Father, we pray for your guidance today. May your Holy Spirit direct our individual thoughts, the words we speak, and the actions we take. Holy Spirit you are welcome in our hearts. Cleanse our motivations Lord. Shine the light of your Spirit into each of our hearts. Burn away any sin, evil or darkness as you would chaff. Burn away any sadness, grief, sorrow, worry, fear or doubt. Cleanse us Father, of the gunk of the world. I pray Father that you would replace all this chaff with your virtues, the gifts of your Spirit and anything else that we need to serve you. Thank you for loving us. Let us be a part of your witness to a broken hurting world. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC