There are two main types of lessons a person must endure before they learn the truth. The first lesson is straight to the point, blunt, and obvious. It is usually learned by hitting rock bottom, and once it has the desired effect, (to make a complete overhaul of one’s priorities) it is never repeated.
The other is something that is either taken for granted, or ignored completely. It is a behaviour, habit, or lifestyle that fits like a second skin. It is so intrinsic to the nature of a person that it would be difficult to imagine life without it. Because the behaviour is something that the person does not believe is wrong, the indictment to change is repeated over and over again until they get it.
For me personally, that message is simple: Shut up. My issue is such a pervasive one that the words, “Be quiet” are too nice. I am the first to admit that I have a problem with speaking out of turn, or as my mother calls it, “over-talking”. I have a habit of giving my opinion when it isn’t asked for, butting in on conversations that don’t involve me, and making snide remarks that I think are funny. (But are rude and insulting) Last year, I read a book called Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. In it, Bridges lists all of the sins that we condone because they aren’t as egregious (to us) as the “big” ones. One of those sins was the sin of using sarcasm and mockery as a form of humour.
I’m not often funny, but when I am, it’s because I’ve made some kind of sarcastic remark. My sarcasm helped me outwit my childhood bullies because I frequently mocked them to their faces without their knowledge. It’s my answer to every stupid question I have ever received. It’s my go-to response to backhanded compliments. It’s my shorthand. My daily speech. Basically, I don’t know how I would talk to people if I could never use sarcasm!
On Sunday, I was reminded–yet again–to watch what I say via an on-time sermon at church.
The text was Matthew 12:33-37 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
James put it this way: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself, and his religion is worthless.”
Worthless. All of the hand-clapping, hand raising, and church-attending rendered worthless because of a failure to shut up. I’m not saying that making snide remarks disqualifies a person from being a Christian. (If it did, I may as well throw in the towel!) But the words we speak have an uncanny ability to affect our lives. Whether the change is positive or negative, depends on what we say and why we say it.
In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon lists the six things that God hates (the seventh is detestable): haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissention among brothers. (6:16-19)
Good and evil cannot exist in the same space because one will always overtake the other. If I want to identify myself as a Christian, I have two options. The first is to make a concerted effort to keep my snarky comments to a minimum. I won’t always succeed, but the fact that I will be paying more attention to what I say means that I’ll be less likely to say something offensive carelessly. The second option is to find another religion because apparently, I’m too lazy to be a Christian.
Personally, I’m cool with the former. I’m a lot better at screening out the comments, remarks, and questions that aren’t beneficial, and I haven’t referred to anyone as an idiot–to their face or otherwise–in a month. (Baby steps, people, baby steps)
Besides, do I really want to tempt fate by defying a rule that has been so clearly stated?
If God wants me to “shut up”, I don’t have a choice. I could go against Him, but my arms are too short to box with my Dad, let alone, trying to box with God!
As a reminder to myself, here are four verses:
“A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbour, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.” (Shut-up) Proverbs 11:12
“If you have played the fool and exalted yourself, or if you have planned evil, clap your hand over your mouth!” (Shut-up) Proverbs 30:32
“He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” (Please, shut-up) Proverbs 13:3
“Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.” (No, seriously, SHUT-UP!) Psalms 34:12-13
(repeat as necessary)
If you find yourself going through a rough patch. No matter what you do, you’re not satisfied or content. Everyone else seems happier and more relaxed than you, and whatever you try to do turns out wrong, you are either experiencing one of life’s many trials…or it was something you said.
Now go and fix it.