Memes Matter

Richard Shumack writes about memes, tweets, and what truth-speaking wisdom we might find in the book of Proverbs.

Public expressions of important truths are getting shorter and shorter. Whether it’s ‘Black Lives Matter’, ‘Stop the Boats’, or ‘Don’t Mention the War’, to get a hearing, today’s truth claims must be Facebook meme worthy, tweetable or, better yet, chantable.

There’s something excellent about this. Some truths need to be shouted, and prophets best share truth punchily. Indeed, this form of truth-speaking is as old as human wisdom itself. One of the oldest sections of the Bible is the Book of Proverbs – essentially a collection of more than 750 memes.

However, there’s also something dissatisfying going on here. Because life is complicated, individual proverbs don’t speak enough true things to fully capture any situation. So, how do I choose between: ‘Great minds think alike’ and ‘Fools seldom differ”, or between ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ and ‘Actions speak louder than words’? They all seem true sometimes.

I suspect that, just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole ‘feed’ of memes to raise a society. That’s doubtless why there are close to 1000 Biblical Proverbs. As it happens, many of them speak truths about truth-speaking, and here are just two that are worth remembering as we shout important things to each other:

In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
(Prov. 10:19 NKJV)

Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
(Prov. 16:24 NIV)