Thursday, June 5, 2008

Watch what you say

First, a thank you for all the prayers, kind notes, and thoughtful words over the last week as my family grieved the loss of my grandfather. The writer of Proverbs tells us correctly that such “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

While mine is probably a minority position, I have to say that there are days I feel sorry for politicians, especially those who are running for president (or who are the president!). What must it be like to have almost every word you speak recorded for posterity? How daunting must it be to know that every misspoken word will immediately become fodder for late night comedians or ammunition for tomorrow’s editorials (and then replayed endlessly on YouTube)?

As someone who has just a few of his words recorded every week, I’m well aware of this simple truth – speak long enough and you’ll say something stupid. I know I have. My personal favorite was a time when I was attempting to discuss the fact that a sexual relationship is at its best when conducted according to the will of God (ie. within marriage). I boldly declared to the congregation of FBC, Marlin, “Sex is better in the church.” I could tell by the congregation’s puzzled looks and the horror that had washed across my wife’s face that I had misspoken. I quickly assured them I was speaking about the church universal not the particular buildings and grounds of First Baptist Church. As I said, speak long enough and you’ll certainly say something you regret. I can’t imagine the challenge of trying to guard my every word.

And yet, the Bible tells us, it’s not just the politicians who should watch what they say. While our words may not be spoken to the masses, they can do major damage nonetheless. Beyond speaking embarrassing words, we can do great damage to our own reputation. Proverbs 18:7 warns that “a fool’s mouth is his undoing.” What’s worse, however, is that our words can lead to the destruction of others - we can crush the stranger, wound a neighbor, or destroy a friend. As Proverbs 11:9 laments, “With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor.”

For most of us, such warnings from the scriptures don’t come as a surprise. We know the power of words. We have both been injured by them and used them to injure. So let us seek forgiveness, today, for the careless words we have spoken, and let us heed the advice of Proverbs 17:27 and use our “words with restraint.”

Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips - Psalms 141:3.

No comments: