Words Have Consequences

Funny things words are: while they are intangible, yet they can break the strongest of men, and while they are merely sounds formed by air, lips and tongue, yet they have the ability to straighten the back of the lowliest of souls. The Proverb says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” (18:21a, ESV). No one is impervious to the destruction of words. It is said that Mark Twain made the comment that “A lie travels around the globe while truth is putting on his shoes.” Jonathan Swift wrote, “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.” Every person has been lied about, and every one of us have been broken with words.

How often we have seen a major newspaper make front page headlines on a person or matter, only to have to retract it on page Z14. But that is not unlike the rest of us. We are too often not very careful with our words; gossip, slander, and angry words come flying out of our mouths or off of our fingers in text or social media. Many times we find we were wrong, and when we have to admit it, we are not quite as vocal or boisterous as before. We’d rather bury our apologies.

Yet, words have power. They carry tremendous power. Some words sting. Some cripple. Some kill. Yet others are a salve, a balm that when applied liberally can bring healing and life. The truth, when spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15), can do both. It can cut, and cut deep, but also prove to be the healing that one needs.

There is a second part to that verse though: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit,” (18:21, ESV). The question with this statement is about what the antecedent to “it” is. There are various arguments as to whether it is “power” or “tongue,” but I argue it is “tongue.” The reason being that this is not the only verse about words in this chapter. It is filled with proverbs about speaking.

“The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook,” (18:4, ESV).

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating,” (18:6, ESV).

“A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul,” (18:7, ESV).

“The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body,” (18:8, ESV).

And there are more, but notice verses 7 & 8 especially. The lips are a snare to the soul and gossip goes down into the inner parts of the body. Those sound an awful lot like, eating the fruit of what comes from the tongue. One cannot take back what he/she has said. Their souls, innermost being, or stomachs will have to live with every word that comes out. Many things said can be reversed with a simple apology, but many things cannot. I still remember being 14 and telling my sister I hated her. As soon as it came out, I tried to take it back, saying that I hated “this, our arguing.” A few years ago, I asked if she remembered the argument when I said that. She didn’t. But it went into the depths of my being. I do not believe I will be able to forget such words. You may have a similar story.

I am a work in progress. By God’s grace I am growing in my speech, though I am not where I wish I was. So I encourage you to remember these words with me and let them sink deep into your soul: “Know this, my beloved brothers: be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” (James 1:19, ESV)

You’re Gonna Wanna Read This 4/17/18

Here are a few articles from other bloggers that I want to share with you. I hope you enjoy them and that they speak to you as much as or more than they did to me.

How Exactly Does True, Lasting, Sanctification Take Place

CEO of America’s Largest Sex Trafficking Website Pleads Guilty (a heartbreaking, but necessary read)

Christians, Mentors, and Mentoring

Reflections on Singing with 12,000 People

Racial Reconciliation: What we (Mostly, Almost) All Agree On, and What We (Likely) Still Don’t Agree On

Tuesday/Newsday: Syria

The Syrian conflict is deep.  It’s complicated.  There are rebel forces and forces that are loyal to President Assad, each with an agenda and strategies.  But then there are civilians.  There are men and women, children and babies, who are caught in the middle.  Those who do not and have not taken up arms on either side, are those about whom I speak.  Reportedly, these are the forty-three who died in Douma.  I, personally, have seen one of the videos coming out of Syria which show these people, made in the image of God, dead.   Some had their lifeless eyes open and some had foam coming from the mouths.  I was going to write about this last Tuesday, but needed more time to process what I’d seen and find out more of what actually happened.  Here is my take on this issue on the question of coalition airstrikes against Syria that have happened.  Was it right or is there a better way?

I know that there are some differences when it comes to nations, but I think ultimately the principle remains the same.  As I think about the Syrian issue, my mind continuously goes back to the parable of the Good Samaritan (again differences are there when it comes to nations.  Yet, the similarities are striking and the principle is true.)  The parable arose because a lawyer wanting to justify himself, asked who his neighbor was so that he knew who it was that he should love, due to his own answer to Jesus’ question about what the law said (Love your neighbor as you love yourself).  Does one have to love a person who is not like us?  I find it interesting that Jesus used the Samaritan in his story.  Not only did the Jews not like Samaritans, but the Samaritans didn’t like the Jews.  Of course the story is told that a Jew was walking down to Jericho, got ambushed, beaten and left half-naked and half-dead by a bunch of thugs.  A priest and a Levite (the “moralists” and “most-godly” among the people) walked on by not wanting to get themselves ceremonially unclean.  It was only the Samaritan, who looked beyond his hatred for Jews, but rather seeing a neighbor, who helped.

Knowing that there are protocols, politics, and laws put in place for nations, I still see the similarities.  These civilians have been murdered by chemical weapons.  That does not really seem to be disputed by anyone.  Which nations will look on, say that’s a shame (or “we condemn this senseless violence”) and walk on by?  It looks to be those nations that could help, but don’t want to get involved, whether they don’t want to spend the money, don’t care, or don’t want to look “unclean” to the rest of the world for getting involved.  They don’t want to soil themselves with the mess of Syria.  But then, which nation(s) will refuse to walk on by, seeing past their “hatred”* of the Syrians, and be a neighbor?

We know that nations in the Bible were used by God to bring about judgment upon other nations for their horrific acts.  One of the curses He told would come about for Israel’s disobedience: “The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies.  You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them.  And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth,” (Deuteronomy 28:25, ESV).  Yes, that is about Israel in particular.  Yet, the nations of Canaan were driven out because of their wickedness (cf. Deuteronomy 9:4-5).  Most of these nations at this point, had done nothing to Israel; in fact, some had made friends with the Israelite ancestors, but because of their evil, they were judged.

I am not advocating war here.  I believe war should be a last resort, but I am also saying that I don’t believe that people (or nations made up of people) can simply walk to the other side of the road and pretend this didn’t happen.  I am not a politician.  I don’t know all the ins and outs of sanctions, diplomacy, etc.  I know there are constitutional laws that are to be followed.  I know that there will be repercussions that will come whether we take action or not.  I also know that the response must be fitting of the crime; we must be as just as we know how to be.

Solomon wrote, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it,” (Proverbs 3:27, ESV).  Innocent (and I use that simply as a vernacular–Noah was righteous, blameless in his generation–term, and not a theological–there is none righteous, no not one–term) people were murdered with chemical weapons.  They had not taken up arms and yet were the ones killed.  Thus, they need our good, and we ought not withhold it if it is in our power to give it.  It was King Lemuel who told us that we are to “defend the rights of the poor and needy,” (Proverbs 31:9, ESV).  How we do that, I cannot say.  All I can say is that we cannot ignore what happen.  We cannot simply talk about it, but never act.  “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth,” (1 John 3:18, ESV).

*By hatred, I do not intend to indict an actual hate and rage against, but rather an indifference that can lead to harm of others.  To take Penn Jillette’s idea that if one sees him about to get hit by a bus, but does not do anything about it–how much does that person hate him?  It is an indifference that leads to harm or death.

I know there are differences of opinion, and that is fine. I welcome them.  Let me know your thoughts?  How ought we to handle the situation in Syria?  Leave a comment below.