John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s Pizza, stepped down as CEO last December, after making remarks about players in the NFL who would take a knee during the national anthem at the beginning of games. Since those remarks, Papa John’s sales have plummeted, their stocks have gone down, and ties with the NFL have been severed. But this doesn’t seem to have stopped Papa from opening his mouth. On July 11, Schnatter admitted that he used the “n” word in a conference call where he was roll-playing. According to CBSNew.com:
On the May call, Schnatter reportedly said the N-word while complaining that a legendary fast-food chain founder had used the word in the past without being subjected to public backlash. He also reflected on his childhood in Indiana, saying people used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died, according to Forbes.
Both Schnatter and Papa John’s have apologized for the incident, and John Schnatter has stepped down as chairman of the board. Actions have consequences. Words, whether intentional or not, hurt. And it is wise to be careful with what one says. It is wise to simply bite the tongue.
Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent,” (ESV). The problem that many of us have is that we talk too much. Jesus said that our mouths speak what is in our hearts, and we know that our hearts are corrupt. Thus what comes out of our mouths are corrupt words. The more we speak, the more transgressing words pour forth.
This is a lesson for us all, not just Papa John. We live in a society that believes it must have an opinion about every issue and that opinion must be voice, posted, texted, emailed, and blogged about (yes, I see the irony here). The amount of speech that spews forth from our mouths and our fingertips can become (and often is) toxic. Those subjects that were once taboo to speak on due to their predictable inflammatory feelings (like politics) are now voiced in such a bitter tone. Posts–on both sides of the aisle–are put on walls, shared in threads, and forwarded in emails without one moment of hesitation to even see if the piece is true or to see if it is appropriate.
John Schnatter is learning the hard way that sometimes it is best just to put the slice of pizza down and bite the tongue once in a while. Am I saying we should be afraid to speak? Yes! That is exactly what I’m saying! “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense,” (Proverbs 10:21, ESV). Did you catch what happens to fools? They die! Perhaps literally, but definitely metaphorically. Papa John Schnatter is at this moment. He’s not the first and certainly will not be the last.
James, Jesus’ brother wrote, “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell,” (James 3:6, ESV). He goes on to tell us that the tongue, “is a restless evil, full of deadly poison,” (3:8, ESV). We wouldn’t go around swinging a cobra around like it doesn’t matter who gets bitten. We wouldn’t be carrying a torch into a munitions closet filled with gun powder. But that seems to be what we do with our words. Whatever or whoever our tongue strikes its deadly poison into isn’t our faults. Whatever explosion we cause due to our words–not our problem.
We can do better. As Christians–if you are a Christian–you are commanded to do better. We are called to watch our tongue. We are instructed not to let any unwholesome talk come from our mouths. We are called to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. So every time you bite into a pizza (Papa John’s or not), remember that it is better at times to put the slice down and bite the tongue.