The tongue



July 4, 2107

Dear Friends:


“…whose tongue utters no slander,

    who does no wrong to a neighbor,

    and casts no slur on others;”   Psalm 15:3


Why is it so hard to hold my tongue when someone does something that annoys me? Why do I find it so tempting to “educate” someone else about the real character of a person we both know?  What makes it so pleasurable to cast doubt or a unflattering innuendo about someone other soul that has wronged me?


I think that the answer is simply because it makes me look superior and allows me to feel better about my own flawed existence as I compare myself to someone that is apparently more flawed than me. This way of thinking reminds me of the “relative argument” teenagers often use. When caught doing something wrong, the “relative argument” always compares their offense with a far more egregious  sin. “Yes, Stalin was bad, but he did not kill nearly as many million as Hitler”.  (Regardless of this is true or not, it does not diminish the fact that Stalin was a monster.)


When I slander people, gossip about someone else, or attempt to make you doubt the goodness of another soul, all that I say might be true.  but it in no way diminishes my own failures, weaknesses and faults. It might make me feel good for the short term, but eventually the reality of who I a really am and my need to humble myself before God will catch up with me.


The Psalmist here is once again painting a masterpiece of what a man or woman of God should look like, and if we look at that painting and don’t see ourselves reflected in it, perhaps we need to talk to the Master Artist and ask him to “remake us”.


In fact, the more aware I become of His mercy and grace, the more easily I can forgive my neighbor rather than “slander him”—-or even speak the unflattering truth!  The more He reminds me that against Him—-and only Himthat I have sinned, the less bombastic I tend to be in arguing that another man is contemptible.  


I appreciate people that are able to tell the truth from the pulpit, on talk radio or from the Senate floor.  And there are times we need to rebuke a brother or sister or confront what is patently wrong.  But there’s also a need to esteem others highly and always want to believe the best about the other.  Christ has not called us to be naive or innocent of truth, but rather pure and free from a burning desire to hurt or offend others by our words.  


As I think about my own words today, I wonder how many were kind, positively persuasive, uplifting, encouraging and kind; and how many were snide, unneeded, unhelpful or mean-spirited.  There’s more than one verse in the Bible that warns about the power and destructive power of the tongue.


Lord take possession my mind, tongue and motives——I am not where I hope to be yet.




Dean Barley

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