The good advice William Shakespeare was giving seemed to be “Keep your thoughts to yourself; act in a rational way.” In this irrational world, that advice might be difficult. There are whole industries given to visual entertainment, scandal sheets and call-in radio shows devoted entirely to spewing one’s thoughts and regurgitating them to the point of ad nauseam. How often have we said something we wish wholeheartedly we could take the words back. Even after hearing that still small voice in our minds saying, “Don’t say it!” But nonetheless, it got said, resulting in everything from divorce to libel court dates. They did not control the impulse in their mind. They gave free rein to their tongues, resulting in irreparable damage. James 3:5 In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest on fire.
I was spewing my thoughts in one situation and the lesson literally came home loud and clear. I had driven my wife to the airport and the scanners for boarding passes had just been introduced in the airport. I was having difficulty going through the prompts because the option I needed did not seem to come up. The elderly couple next to me were having a harder time with the scanners when they asked for assistance from an airline agent. With great exasperation and over-dramatic emphasis she blurted out, “Can’t you read?”
Everyone in the area turned to look at the elderly couple who were paralyzed with embarrassment. I was indignant and red-faced at the discourtesy of this so-called service person. I got up to the counter and voiced my thoughts about this agent and what I said was not kind. What I did not know was that I had leaned on my blue-tooth device in a way that it automatically called the last phone number that had been dialed and everything I had said about this terrible airline agent was being recorded on the answering machine at the other end. Eccl.10:20 Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.
The saving grace and mercy that came my way in all my poor Christian behavior by lowering myself to the same obnoxiousness as the agent was the answering machine my words had been recorded on was the one at my own house. I was embarrassed at what I heard when I got home and the words of Jesus were without doubt in my mind. Matt. 12:36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.
Yes, my dear friends, I repented right there on the spot. Yes, there was a voice in my head saying, “Don’t say it that way,” but I did not listen. Since then, this event has become one of those family stories told once in a while as a life lesson. Chuckles and laughter sometimes come out in the retelling of my embarrassing display of unrighteousness. However, the lesson is clear, we are responsible for what we say and our words will be judged.
We will have to give an account of our verbiage given out on a daily basis. Col. 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. There was a proper way to deal with the poor behavior of this airline agent. There are in most cases respectful ways of dealing with people behaving badly. I did not do it with lips saying the right thing. The Lord’s heart was not cheered with how I said it. Prov. 23:16 My innermost being will cheer when your lips say what is right.
Love does sometimes have a hard word to say, but we can say it with grace, humility, and without being corrosive or argumentative. I am not as eloquent in speech as Mr. Shakespeare, but what he said makes sense. Heeding his advice would be a good thing for most of us on this earth to take on as a personal endeavor.
Guarding our tongue and listening to the voice that says, “Don’t say it” would be a good habit to develop in our hearts and minds. Prov. 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. It’s time to retool the way we say things. May God give us His grace to have lips to say what is right. Amen.