One of the surprising things about getting old (I’m 36) is discovering that all the trite little proverbs that my parents and grandparents used to trot out at me actually have a lot of sense behind them. I’ve even (the horror) started trotting some out to my own children!

One particular saying has stuck with me this week: “It is better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re an idiot, than to open it and prove them right.” Never has this felt truer than on social media. I used to love a good Facebook argument, but recently I find myself biting my tongue so often I may soon need oral surgery. Why is this? Certainly social media itself has gone downhill – more adversarial and confrontational than ever before – but something about me has changed too. With two young boys and a demanding job, I find myself choosier about how I spend my time, and getting wound up by friends and strangers online seems less attractive by the day.

It reminds me of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy?” We all live only a finite amount of time, and we must decide how to spend it. We can spend it on fruitless arguments, or on gossip and one-upmanship, but ultimately these things don’t satisfy.

Better to invest our time, and spend it in ways that pay dividends in our lives. This might mean things that educate and edify us, expanding our view of the world, but it also means spending it building relationships and new friendships, worshipping God, or in ways that strengthen our community, perhaps volunteering or using our skills to help others. Time spent in service of God and others is never wasted, and although we may not see the rewards on Earth, Jesus tells us our efforts will earn treasure in heaven.

All of this, perhaps inevitably, reminds me of another ‘trite’ proverb of my childhood; this one beloved of my old school headmaster: “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Even I must admit, it’s a very wise saying.