Sometimes the inspiration for a blog entry comes from the most oddball of places or events, and that’s not always a good thing.
Two Friday nights ago, I was in my room, surfing the web (good heavens I haven’t used that term in a long time). I heard some sirens outside and they sounded like they were from fairly close by, so I went outside to check it out; I opened the door, looked up the street, and saw something horrific: there was a house on fire.
I had never seen that before; it was unreal.
The entire second story of that house was engulfed, and it seemed like the whole Henrico County Fire Department was there trying to put it out. Fortunately, no one was injured, but certainly life became much worse for the owner of the house as well as those who lived there, than it was before that night.
Since then, the building has been condemned; I don’t think anyone will ever live there again.
Fire can be a good thing; for instance, there’s almost nothing better than sitting by a fireplace in the winter, with a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket. But fire is obviously very destructive when it’s not being used properly.
We all have a fire inside of us that we have to watch out for–a fire that is more dangerous than every volcano on the planet–it’s the little fire called the tongue.
There’s an old saying: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me.” Jesus’ brother James would disagree: James doesn’t just say “the tongue is like a fire”—a simile—he uses a metaphor: “the tongue IS a fire, a world of iniquity (James 3:6).”
What we say (and text and email and post on Facebook or Twitter) can have incredibly destructive effects and cause permanent damage. I’ve seen multiple articles about the effects of our words, whether verbal or digital. Consider how on Twitter, no one really needs to even know who you are, but you are essentially free to insult, curse, and slander anyone you want, and with very little consequence. The same applies with Facebook, but I assume people are a little more cautious about that because they know most of their Facebook connections personally (not to say that necessarily stops them from doing it anyway).
Perhaps the wisest President this country has ever seen, Abraham Lincoln, famously said “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” Our words can get us in trouble, and sometimes the damage cannot be undone.
From the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing; this should not be so (James 3:10).
Have you ever written a nasty email or letter to someone when you were angry at them? I have. There’s that feeling of satisfaction you get, thinking that you’ve let them have it, you’ve put them in their place, and knowing that it’s in writing so they can even go back and read it multiple times and maybe it will hurt even more.
And yet, the satisfaction is very short-lived; you got what you wanted to off your chest, aired it out, but you also set a blazing fire; all you did was upset the other person.
President Lincoln was also famous for his “hot letters;” he would write exactly what he wanted to say to someone he was angry at, then he would put the letter in his desk and never send it. Next time you’re upset at someone and you want to tell them off, consider what Lincoln did; write your letter, put it away, go to sleep, and then the next day, decide whether you should still send it.
Before you say something to someone, use “THINK:”
Is it True? “Speak the truth every man to his neighbor (Ephesians 4:25);” one of the Ten Commandments is to not bear false witness (Exodus 20:16).
Is it Helpful? “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a ruling rightly given. Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear. Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master (Proverbs 25:11-13 NIV).
Is it Inspiring? The Apostle Paul says to “provoke one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24);” too often though, we stop at the word “provoke.”
Is it Necessary? Not everything that is true needs to be said all the time; Jesus warns that “everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken (Matthew 12:36 NIV).”
Is it Kind? “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24 NIV).”
Jesus was oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7). When they insulted him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats; he entrusted himself to the LORD who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23). “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14 NIV).”
Therefore: let YOUR words be gracious and seasoned with salt, so you will rightly answer everyone (Colossians 4:6).
Grace and Peace,