Devotion for the Week...
Occasionally, Paul will speak to me when he thinks I've been too hard on one of the boys, or I'll speak to him when I think he has. Usually we've been harsh not because what the child did was so awful, but because we're tired or frustrated and taking it out on an undeserving target.
Other times I catch myself being critical or judgmental about someone and sharing thoughts that would be better dismissed completely. James wrote, "All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:7,8). How very true! Our tongues often seem to have a mind of their own, don't they, spewing out words before the mind takes the time to think.
Matthew records a warning Jesus gave to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of His day, "But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36,37). The Message paraphrase renders it as "Let me tell
you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back
to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful;
take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your
Those are sobering words, aren't they? Would we be more careful with our words if we remembered that someday we will stand before God and hear all of our words again?
Often, when I think of being more careful about what I say, I'm thinking about what I say to the people in my life, like being careful to choose words that will not hurt the feelings of the person I'm speaking to, or reminding myself to be extra patient when I know I'm tired. This week, though, I've been thinking more about the things we say about other people. I've been thinking especially about when we're talking about politicians. If we disagree with their decisions or their actions, we tend to speak very negatively, using disrespectful language. We say things like 'stupid' or 'idiot,' words we tell young children not to use. But Ephesians 4:29 tells us "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Though the politicians will never hear the words spoken in my home, do they benefit those who are hearing them? Though it is impossible to always agree with everyone, it is possible to speak respectfully of those whose opinions are different from ours? And I think those words will be easier to account for when we stand before God.
I've also been thinking about how our tone can impact what we say. Though our words by themselves may be okay, the tone we use sometimes changes their meaning. "You are so smart" can be said seriously, in which case it is a wonderful thing to say, or it can be said sarcastically, which is not so wonderful. I would guess that when God asks us to give an account of our words, the tone we used will be a part of the discussion.
As Christians, we are called to be different. Does that difference show in the way we speak?