FILTERING WHAT WE SAY
The tongue so vital to our existence and communication gets us into more trouble than we can possibly imagine (James 3:1-12). A fire hospitalized me for 18 months. After my release from rehabilitation and surgeries, I entered a private school to gain college credentials. During my rehabilitation, an older gentleman with tears in his eyes said aloud to his companions in Russian, “That German is good for nothing.” Very likely, he did not take into account that I was familiar with his language. One of the compassionate students said to my face, “If you put horns on, you look like the devil.” Some Christians regarded my accident as a punishment of God. It did raise my guilt level and I had no angelic look any longer. But, it would have been much easier to bear had the Creator installed filters in our mouths to control what we say. “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). Fortunately, there were more people that encouraged me to look beyond my scars. These persons were a blessing for filtering what they were saying to me and about me. What we say about each other in secret, our tongue will embarrass us in public (Matthew 10:27).
The crucial question is, “how do I stop my tongue from damaging my life and hurt others?” Would it help me if I had it amputated (Proverbs 10:31) or glued to the top in my mouth (Job 29:10)? I have known people with impaired speech, but that did not improve their personality. My youngest sister was poisoned as a baby and she lost most of her hearing. She grew up, married and had three children. Medical science had advanced and offered to help her restore some of her hearing loss. She rejected the offer because what she saw hearing people do was not worth listening to. She read their lips and wanted no part of their world. The tongue was only spitting out what their minds had hatched against the handicapped or people that were different. The tongue is an instrument for communicating what is in my heart and in yours. “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). If it is unrestrained, then it is my unwillingness to control it.
I was raised in a culture and country where we were not allowed to speak ill of anyone (I Corinthians 10:23-24). It had something to do with a God that kept a diary (Revelation 20:12). Of course, my grandmother had a saltshaker handy. The Polish aristocracy and government representatives had big ears. The Soviets came and we built thicker walls. The Nazis began to urge us to betray our own parents. It was a time when young and old said very little in public. After the fall of Germany, people opened up and the tongue too was liberated from silence and began to dare say things that were not suitable for people that bore the image of God. I did not feel at home any longer and immigrated to Canada and then to the U.S.A. To my surprise, the tongue was free to say whatever it wanted. In fact, it was granted the right to free speech by a document called the “Constitution.” News people, politicians, and ranking citizens were being praised for demoralizing and defaming those that did not agree with them. The tongue was out of control like the gun in the Wild West. Those that had the skill to wag their tongues were and still are among the highest recognized people. In fact it has become worse.
The consequences of loose tongues create havoc among us and they will also land us in hell. This is Jesus’ verdict: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother ‘I hate you,’ is answerable to authorities. But anyone who calls another a “fool” will be in danger of the fires in hell” (Matthew 5:21-22). “But I tell you that men will have to give accounts on judgment day for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you used, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2). “Simply let your ‘yes’ be yes, and your ‘no’ be no; anything beyond this comes from the evil on” (Matthew 5:37).
Jesus warned that there were severe consequences against character assassinations. Aside from the sin against The Holy Spirit or God, character assassination drew His severest indictment (Mt. 12:31; Jn. 4:24). Jesus forgave those that mocked and ridiculed Him because they did not know what they were doing (Lk. 23:34). He expects no less of His followers because if those who thrive on diminishing the characters of others knew what the consequences are, they would not continue to mock what God created good. Forgiveness is for the benefit of those that are being victimized and not for those that destroy their fellowmen with their tongues. Paul the Apostle gave us a hint for a filter. “The entire law is summed up in a single commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians :14-15). The Apostle Peter added: “Show proper respect to everyone. Love the brotherhood (or each other), fear God and honor the king (or authorities)” (I Peter 2:17). Moses, the man that felt unfit to talk penned this instruction, “Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants” (Deuteronomy 32:2). Should we presume it to be to difficult to filter what we say then read what Job did when he was assailed by his closest friends: “as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit” (Job 27:3-4).
To sum it all up into one fundamental reason, it is the lack of the fear of God that has let the tongue become a weapon of destruction instead an instrument of blessings. What is tragic is that our interpretation of grace has had a hand in excusing the tongue of us sinners that cannot help who we are. This in itself is a primary reason why we should filter what we say (Hebrews 10:19-31).