Saturday, December 28, 2013


"There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be made known.  So then, whatever you say in the dark will be heard in the light and what you've whispered in the ear in secret rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops."
Luke 12:2, 3

Jesus said these words nearly 2,000 years before Facebook, Twitter, blogging, texting, sexting, YouTube or even the telephone!  And nearly 1,000 years before Jesus, the author of Ecclesiastes said, " ... in your inner thoughts don't curse a king and in your bed chamber don't curse a rich man, because a bird of the air will carry the sound, and a winged creature will relate the words" (Ecclesiastes 10:20).

It happens all the time, and with electronic media nothing that is said (or printed or texted or tweeted) goes unheard or unread.  It's almost as if these Scriptures were speaking of our age.

A star of a popular TV reality show is suspended because of remarks in a magazine interview that were considered homophobic and racist.  A celebrity tweets remarks considered racist and thoughtless while in flight and before she lands she is attacked by the news media.  It seems to be a continual problem -- celebrities, politicians, sports stars make comments considered by the word police to be racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, bullying, or who knows what else.  And then these (sometimes) are followed by the  necessary confessions, excuses and expressions of regret.

At the risk of having my words condemned as being construed as belonging in one or more of the above offensive categories, I must confess that my usual initial reaction to the indignant tsk-tsks is to simply say "Get over it!  People are stupid and they're going to say stupid things."

I long ago came to realize that original stupidity is one aspect of original sin!  Jesus' brother James said, "For we all stumble in many ways; if anyone doesn't stumble in his speech, he's a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body" (James 3:2).  And James wasn't talking about a speech impediment; he was talking about abusive and/or offensive speech, as the rest of the passage makes clear.  (I have yet to meet "a perfect man.")  As James tells us, we are all guilty of saying things that cause offense.  And I suspect that we often do so out of ignorance of how hurtful our speech is.

But it is also true that what we say really expresses what we think or believe.  Jesus said that " ... out of the abundance of the heart (one's) mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45).  If I am interpreting this saying correctly, it's telling me that when someone blurts out offensive words (though he may utter without thinking) he is expressing what is really in his mind.  So if I utter racist or bullying remarks, they are an expression of my own inner racist or bully, and if I shout, "Damn you!" at someone who cuts me off on the freeway, I really am desirous of his damnation.

I think the greater lesson to be taken from seeing and hearing well-known people saying offensive things, is to recognize that we who claim to be followers of Jesus are also capable of offense.  We need to watch our speech and we need to watch our thoughts.  We need to recognize that every word we say has consequences and to treat every word as if immediately on leaving our mouths it would be heard by all.  That applies as well, if not even more, to words written, texted, tweeted, e-mailed or posted on Facebook or blog.

"Don't let any nasty word come out of your mouth, only that which is good for building up according to the need, so that if may give grace to the hearers" (Ephesians 6:23).

"But sexual immorality and impurity and any greed should not even be named among you, as is fitting to saints -- or filthiness or stupid talk or crude sarcasm which are unfitting -- but rather thanksgiving" (Ephesians 5:3, 4).


Bob McCollum said...

Was thinking the other day that 90 percent of my problems in life have been caused by my mouth. Have ordered a large roll of duct tape to prevent future problems.

On the other hand, I could try to bring my tongue under control by submitting to the leading and control of the Holy Spirit. But I suppose that would make too much sense.

Looking forward to a new body and a new tongue.


Sherry Ball Schoenfeldt said...

I've always said I'm glad nobody follows me around with a camera and a microphone. I'd do something stupid or I'd say something unacceptable. And now we all follow ourselves around with cameras and microphones these days LOL

I'm glad the vast majority of the world doesn't care about my words & actions -- don't like it a bit that God knows all that AND everything I think too.