Monday, January 23, 2012

Choosing Words Wisely

Do we really seem to pay that much attention to the words that come out of our mouths? As a parent, if our child says something mean we say to them, "Now Johnny, that isn't nice at all. You shouldn't say such things." But a few minutes later the phone can ring and we grab it only to catch up on the latest news in town. "Hi Sally, did you hear what happened to Kay? Her kids left home and she is checked into a hospital for drug addiction."

Now for starters, that mother is right. It's not nice to talk mean to others. But what happened to this mother's same virtue when it came to herself? It's like that phone hits our ear and something crazy happens to us. We just can't get enough. I just wonder how many phone calls, emails and texts are sent each and every day involving gossip? I know, I wouldn't want all of my messages recorded for others to hear or see.

As I turned on the news this morning I had my Bible open getting ready to study. My Bible was turned to Ephesians 4 and as I am reading I hear the news anchor say, "Gossip? Is it really bad or could it be good for your health?" Ah, the Lord was speaking to my heart loud and clear. At first I thought, goodness, people are nasty, aren't they? But then I realized God wasn't concerned with those others this morning. He was speaking to me.

A few days ago I felt that I was attacked by another Christian. Mistaken words? Misunderstanding? Wrong choice of words? Sure, it could have been. But just the use of one word turned an opinion into a mess. Why did I feel attacked? There was no encouragement or inspiration in the words being shared. I didn't feel love at all. So, what did this Christian girl do? I could have let it go, but I didn't. I was down right angry. So, my words went pounding right back. Sure, I tried to be respectful and say what I thought had to be said, but there was no doubt anger in my words reflected back. In hindsight, I know I should have just let it go. I shouldn't have replied back at all. I should have been more concerned with my character than the faults of the other person's words. But, it stung. When we are hurt by words, we hurt back with words.

My son is that young man who makes mistakes, just like his parents. He is not perfect and he will tell you without a doubt that his behavior is not always Christian like. For me, I admire his honesty. He isn't one to pretend he is someone he isn't. Like me, he tries to walk as the Lord calls him, but on this journey we make mistakes. It's through those very mistakes that we learn the lessons in life. As my son has shared some of his mistakes over the last summer, he has gotten more gossip and mean remarks that have stained his heart than he ever thought he would. As he was being honest he thought he would receive encouragement. Words expressing a love for him. Since his sharing of his summer failures, I think his heart has been more hurt by those very people he expected more from.

When Christians gossip about other Christians we are displaying to the world around us that we are no different. When in fact, it should be just the opposite. We should be cheering one another on with words that edify. We should be encouraging one another through prayer. This world attacks enough. We shouldn't be receiving it from the very people who call themselves Christian or family.

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."
Ephesians 4:29

Could the Word be any clearer? We are not to use unwholesome speech. Unwholesome is rotten. It is foul. It is unpleasant. We don't want anything unwholesome entering our mouths. Just maybe we should be more concerned with what is going out of them.

"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."
Ephesians 4:30

Can you imagine our Father when unwholesome words come from our mouths? In Him we are changed. We have become new and our old ways are gone from us. Just because we are a Christian it doesn't mean we are not going to falter, but it should mean that we are more aware of our self because we represent our Father in heaven. Our words can either bring people to know Him or turn them away from Him. When the world around us hears us gossiping, what are we saying to them? This is the very reason the world looks at the Christian realm with the idea that we are hypocrites and nothing about us is any different.

"But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth."
Colossians 3:8

Goodness, think about it. What do we do when we are angry? We spew words. We take our anger out on that person by sharing with others just what they did to us. Have you been there with me? There have been times when I have sat back wishing I could take back my words. We cannot take them back, but we can open our heart and humbly apologize. We can take those words and give them to the Lord and say, "Lord, I have really messed up here. Please take these hateful words and use them to glorify Your holy name. Hey, if God can take ash and turn it into to beauty, He too can take our words and change us to look more like Him, by simply just humbling our hearts and being honest.

Isn't that they key here? Being honest? Is it really our business to give our opinion about everything? No. There are times we need to be quiet. There too are times we need to stand and tell others to quiet themselves. When we enter a room of gossip we have three choices. We can either take part and then spread what we hear. We can leave the room or we can stand and speak up. Whether we leave or speak up is the Lord's call. We just need to be so close to Him that when He speaks we hear Him and we follow.

Our speech should be instructive, encouraging, uplifting, and suited for the moment. Ouch! My words are not always edifying and I know the Lord looks down upon me and wonders, "Child of Mine, what are you doing here? Listen to Me. Follow Me. Use the gift of words I have given you to glorify Me."  Too often my words tear down another. I need to be watchful over my own mouth.

"And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the enter body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and had been tamed by the human race. But on one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison."
James 3:6-8

Think of that small spark that starts a forest fire. Think of just a little poison that kills one who has been bitten. Think of the spread of germs that comes from that one infected person who enters a room. Gossip is a wild fire out of control. Gossip is a poison that will kill a friendship. It is the very sickness that can overtake a church. All done with one word.

We must be accountable for the words that come from our mouths. It's easy to blame another person. Friends, if we are not part of the problem or the solution then we need to butt out! The problem is the very fact that we make ourselves the solution. We think we need to speak out on a matter, when in fact what we really need to do is just hush. It's when we speak when we shouldn't that we are now part of the problem and in speaking we have just made the problem much worse.

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."
Ephesians 5:1

Isn't that simple? Just imitate our Savior. If we are always focused on Him, we are going to be mindful of what comes out of our mouths. If gossip is coming from our mouths it is a reflection of our relationship with Him. Another huge, OUCH!

Every word we speak should be in love. Our words should be prayed over. We can begin each and every day with a prayer to God, "Please Lord, fill me with Your Spirit. Give me Your words. Help me to encourage and inspire others today to bring a pleasant fragrance to Your holy name."

"That I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person."
Colossians 4:4-6

"Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips."
Psalm 131:3

Salt adds flavor. It brings out the other flavors to make the whole meal more inviting. Just a little salt goes a long way. Salt is used to protect and preserve. Salt is a flavor enhancer. Pure salt cannot be defiled. It's when other things are added in that the pure salt looses it's flavor. We need to make sure our words are pure without defilement. When our words are spoken in love the person who receives them will feel that love. They will find grace in our words and will respond in love. It's when our words are spoken without prayer and in anger that all goes wrong. May we use our words to inspire and edify one another.

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men."
Matthew 5:13

Lord, make my words, Your words. May I encourage and inspire through the words I choose to use. May I be a light to this world and a reflection of You. Help me not to speak out of turn and to hold my tongue when anger comes pouring over me. Help me to choose my words wisely and before I respond, please pour Your wisdom and insight over me, that I might speak in love and not in anger. Forgive me when I have faltered. Lift me up in Your Word today and may I walk closer to You, knowing just important my words are and the impact they can have upon another. Amen


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