|Volume 21 Number 8 August 2019||
You can change your world, by changing your words! The words we speak are so very powerful. Sadly, Christians can use the tongue to their own and to others’ eternal harm. The warnings God sets forth in Scripture regarding the tongue are many. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18 ESV). “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23). “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit” (1 Peter 3:10). For further study, consider Proverbs 18:21; 20:19; 26:20; James 3. A seemingly faithful child of God can become unfaithful very quickly by the misuse of the tongue. As God’s children, what are some of the sins we must be vigilant not to do? While the following will certainly not be exhaustive, we shall seek to address some of the more common sins of the tongue.
Someone has correctly called gossip the reputation assassin. Often gossip is thought of as sharing something untrue about another. In fact, this author has personally heard Christians attempt to defend gossip by saying that what they repeated was true. However, the biblical idea of gossip is not just repeating false things about another, but it can entail repeating true things as well. “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” (Proverbs 11:13). “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love: but he that repeateth a matter seperateth very friends” (Proverbs 17:9). Should I repeat what I am about to repeat? THINK! “T,” is it true? “H,” is it helpful? “I,” is it inspiring? “N,” is it necessary? “K,” is it kind? A general rule of thumb that may help is: When in doubt, do not say it!
Sadly, we need to make serious evaluation of our words here! Christians, by the very nature of the lifestyle are encouragers. There is no doubt that any of us can easily find fault in each of us! However, what we see is often what we are looking to see. A public speaker once held up a white cloth with a small black speck in the middle. He asked his audience what they saw. The audience unanimously said, “A black speck.” However, the entire white cloth went unnoticed. How often is this true of the view we have of our brothers and sisters in Christ? We all have some black specks, but in most cases, there is so much good that we surely can look past those small specks! James warned, “Speak no evil of one another brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge” (James 4:11). This is the idea Jesus had in mind when He said, “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgements” (John 7:24). Are you critical of others? Instead of spreading criticism, spread love, joy and encouragement (Hebrews 10:23-25).
While some contention or dispute in life is unavoidable, we can still disagree without being contentious! The wise man penned, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Christians must be de-escalators. Instead of escalating and intensifying a sticky situation, our words can soften and de-escalate a possible blow-up. If a small fire begins in your home, you can choose to either fuel that fire or extinguish it. If you spray water on it, you will obviously extinguish the blaze. However, if you throw gasoline on it, well you get the point! By our actions and words, we can help or hinder a possible inferno. “Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife” (Proverbs 26:21). “And be ye kind…” (Ephesians 4:32a).
The tongue is such a powerful weapon! Death and life are both in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). A paraphrased story that illustrates the need for careful evaluation of our words reads like this:
George Brown heard the clatter of a wheelbarrow in front of his house. He stepped to the window, wondering who it could be. It was Manley Strong with his wheelbarrow loaded with all manner of garbage. He turned into the yard and approached the front door. His collection of rotten apples, tin cans, ashes and what not contrasted strongly with the neat lawn and beautiful flower beds.
“Good morning, Mr. Brown. I’ve brought you a load of garbage, and I’m wondering where you wish to have it dumped.”
George Brown’s eyes opened widely with surprise. “Where do I wish that stuff? Have you gone crazy? Do you see any signs telling you to dump garbage here?”
Manley pointed to a beautiful flower bed. “There is room for it there,” he suggested. “I believe that’s a good place to dump it.”
George Brown gasped. “You dump that stuff here and see what happens,” he threatened.
“Would you prefer it in the middle of the lawn?” Manley asked.
“Say, what’s the meaning of this?” the irate owner asked. “The best thing you can do is to get that stuff out of here.“
Manley nodded. “I really believe this stuff should be taken to the garbage dump,” he agreed, “but I thought if you could dump your garbage where you pleased, I certainly should have the same privilege.”
“What do you mean?” George Brown asked.
“Let me refresh your memory. You’ll understand what I mean. Do you remember talking yesterday afternoon with a group of boys? Before you left them, you dumped a foul story on them, and also some profane language. Two of those boys are in my Sunday School class. I spend time and effort to keep their lives pure and clean, and they are as much a source of pride to me as your beautiful lawn and flower beds are to you. Yet, you dumped your foul garbage on the minds of those boys. Having done so, you laughed and went away, leaving the garbage there to breed evil thoughts and possibly evil deeds. You do not wish your flowers buried beneath a pile of garbage, and neither do I wish the purity of those boys spoiled by your offensive language. You could remove this stuff from your lawn, but it is more difficult to remove evil thoughts that have been sown in the mind.”
Be Made New
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Most people like getting something new. While there is a nostalgia for some of the things from our past, who doesn’t enjoy sitting in a new car and enjoying that new car smell? Everything is clean and fresh, and we make a promise to ourselves we will never eat in it to help preserve that pristine feeling it has (which, if you have children or grandchildren, is a rash vow). With time, however, the aroma that once permeated the vehicle dissipates. There may be crumbs and French fries in several nooks and crannies under the seats, and that inevitable ding or scratch has happened, giving it part of its new character.
We may try to recapture that new feeling again. We can have it detailed inside and out, with some fresh scent sprayed to help revitalize the interior (which never does have the aroma of that new car smell). We can get scratch remover or touch up paint to try covering the external defects. Ultimately, however, the luster of when it was new fades as we become accustomed to its idiosyncrasies. It may start having mechanical issues, or it may be ol’ reliable, but it isn’t new anymore.
Such is the nature of things in the material world. Even in our lives, as we mature and grow older, our bodies remind us we’re not the same as we were earlier in life. Health issues may begin to creep up on us. Our memory may not be as sharp as it once was. We realize we are not “new” anymore, and that, as James reminds us, “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). We are grateful for all that medical science can do to help us have the quality of life we have, but we know where our journey of life will eventually take us.
In all of this, though, we can rejoice that there is a way we can be made new again. We know that, just as life in the flesh brings trials with it, so sin brings its own consequences to us spiritually, and ends in death—physically and spiritually (Romans 6:23). In Christ, there is renewal, not an artificial attempt to restore something that proves ineffective, but a real regeneration spiritually, a cleansing of our souls that enables us to have a genuine relationship with God and the promise of forgiveness that results in eternal life.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
The blood of Christ enables us to pass from death to life and to reflect more and more the image of our Lord. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). While the flesh becomes weaker and weaker, new things come in Christ, and we know, once we have put off this flesh, we will reflect the image of the eternal Christ Himself (1 John 3:2). This is really the newness of life worth living for (Romans 6:4). This is a renewal unlike anything we can have or experience in this existence. “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
The nature of life takes what is new and causes it to grow old and wear out; the nature of the Son of God renews us in His image to a life eternal, “into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5). Oh, how we long for this renewal, to be made new, to know we have something lasting waiting for us! Make sure your hope is focused on that which makes us new in Christ, not something temporal, physically new for only a brief moment in time. May we “put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10).