Thursday, April 12, 2007

You Said It!

"Better to have people think you're a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Mark Twain's words were well-chosen and well-spoken.

Words can get us into serious jams. I have a lot of stories like this, and I bet you do too.

It was probably along those same lines the writer of Proverbs was thinking when he wrote, "...the mouth of a fool invites ruin." (10:14b)

It happens almost anywhere I happen to be. Someone will be using their everyday vocabulary, a word or idea will slip out that they probably would choose NOT to use if they could have it back. Then they catch themselves. They look at me, "the minister", and say something like "Oh...sorry" or "Uh...excuse me".

The ones that make me laugh the most were folks who didn't think anything about it till someone says, "The MINISTER's here" or "This is my PASTOR!"

They get red-faced and guilt kicks in.

Are they feeling unnecessary guilt? Are they looking to the Church to police their language?

I don't think so. I think they're in touch with something much deeper and more significant.

"Do not let any evil talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit others to listen." (Ephesians 4:29)

This is a lesson most of probably heard (learned?) when we were little children.

"Think BEFORE you speak!"

"If you can't say anything nice..."

You can ask any kindergartner about it and they know the words you're not supposed to use.

But "evil talk" can take all kinds of forms.

GOSSIP is brutal. Talking behind someone's back can devastate them. I've known situations where church preachers and teachers would bring out someone else's dirty laundry in the name of "praying for them" or "teaching a lesson to others". But using names and desiring to tell to the world someone else's failings and faults is more "evil talk" than "holy help".

What about name calling? Or being told we're "stupid"? You and I can probably pull up the memories from years ago where someone demeaned us, dehumanized us, or made us feel very small by what they said to us or called us.

That's the type of talk that doesn't have any place in a home, a school hallway or classroom, a church, a city hall, an office, the high school locker room, or ANY PLACE ELSE.

"Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips." (Proverbs 14:7)

But the Bible sets a higher bar than "not saying bad stuff".

We're called to use words that will build each other UP. That may be by expressing encouragement. It may be by offering forgiveness.

The writer of Proverbs tells us that the right words bring "healing" and are "sweeter than honey". "The lips of the righteous nourish many." (Proverbs 10:21)

May your words and your life be used to build people up, bring healing to our world, and a little sweetness into the lives of others today.

Grace & peace

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