Rev'd Charles - October 2017

posted 3 Nov 2017, 04:46 by Richard Jones   [ updated 3 Nov 2017, 04:46 ]

View From the Vicarage

“Sticks and stones . . . 

 May break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Well whoever wrote that had never come across the web or twitter because although sticks and stones can leave bruises, words which are particularly unkind can sometimes leave far more lasting and permanent damage. 

 And words feature prominently in the Bible because God knows the power they have –  to heal or to hurt.  So why should Christians be especially careful about the words they use? Well the message of scripture is very clear. 

 Paul for instance writes, “You must get rid of all these things: anger, passion, and hateful feelings. No insults or obscene talk must ever come from your lips. Do not lie to one another, for you have taken off the old self with its habits and have put on the new self” (Colossians 3:8-10). “Do not  use harmful  words, but only helpful words. Get rid of all bitterness, passion and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort” ( Ephesians 4). Do not be ”slanderers, gossips and busy bodies, talking of things you should not”( 1 Timothy 5:11-13, Titus 2:3). 

 James speaks of the tongue as “a fire spreading evil through our whole being. It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison” (3:6-12) and advises “be quick to listen but slow to speak” (1:19).  Indeed he adds “do not criticize one another and do not complain against one another” (4:11). 

 While Peter writes, “ No more lying or hypocrisy or jealousy or insulting language”(1Peter 2:1). And if we needed any more encouragement to watch what we say, Jesus himself warns, “Do not judge others” for “you can be sure that on Judgement Day everyone will have to give an account of every useless word he has ever spoken. Your words will be used to judge you – to declare you either innocent or guilty” (Matthew 7:1-5, 12:36-37). 

 Now of course it’s often only when we are tired or upset that we may say things we later regret (although English speakers swear on average at least one obscenity once in every 140 words, so that over the course of a day 0.7% of our language consists of swear words), but what we often forget is the damage hateful words do to us as well as to others. The Jewish rabbis call malicious slander the third tongue because it slays 3 persons – the speaker, the spoken to and the spoken of. 

So what should our approach be? Well someone once said that ‘great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events but small minds discuss people’ for ‘the tongue is where the mind comes out into the open.’ 

But a Christian is called to follow Christ, of whom Peter wrote, “No one ever heard a lie come from his lips. When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God the righteous Judge” (1Peter 2:22). 

 So when we consider that latest email, Facebook or twitter, or meet over coffee or chat together at an event what will our words say about us?  Will they point others to Christ, because God’s Holy Spirit is at work in us (Galatians 5:16-24) or will they instead reveal what is in our hearts (Luke 6:45)? 

 We all know how easy it is to be ‘hung by your tongue’ and that is why the prayer of the Psalmist is so important when he prays, “May my words and my thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my refuge and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).