Gentle Answers and Harsh Words

confused-by-creditThere was a time in my life when I suffered from a severe speech impediment, but I slowly overcame it when I quit sticking my foot in my mouth.

Foot-in-your-mouth-itis must have been a common affliction in New Testament times because it was a large focus of the book of James:

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body. ~James 3:2

Other than the book of Proverbs, you’ll find more about the tongue and communication in James than anywhere else in the Bible.  James is full of practical principles for life.  Here’s two of them:

  • The tongue is the index of the heart. What you say reveals what is hidden deep down inside of your heart.
  • Your emotions act as a barometer and reveal your level of maturity. When people get angry, they stumble in many ways and often say things they later regret.

Thanks to James, I’ve noticed three patterns of communication that are characteristic of most people:

  • Some people implode. When they get angry, they say very little, withdraw, and hold everything in.
  • Other people explode with salty language, and they let everything out. These people can be as volatile as the Iran nuclear deal..
  • There’s a third pattern in which a person reloads and wises up. James describes this person in the words below:

Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness . . . the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.  ~James 3:13-18

Which pattern defines you.  Do you implode, explode, or reload?   You may see your pattern in these wise words from Solomon?

A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.

~Proverbs 15:1-2

The Mental Marks of Maturity

images (1)Some people think maturity comes with age; however, being a certain age does not make you a wise old sage.  You really have no choice when it comes to aging; however, it takes some effort to wisely mature.

Growth of this kind is a common topic in the Bible:

  • Peter reminded Christians to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).”
  • In what he thought would be his last communication with the elders from Ephesus, Paul said: “I commit you to God and to the message of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified (Acts 20:32).”
  • Solomon offered this word of advice in the Proverbs: “You gullible people, learn how to be sensible. You fools, get a heart that has understanding (8:5).”

While I was reading in Philippians yesterday, I noticed something interesting.  Paul gives a clear indicator of maturity:  “Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, all who are mature should think this way (Philippians 3:13-15).”

According to this verse, you show signs of maturity when:

  • You are not bound by the chains of the past.
  • You choose to invest in the future
  • You pursue a relationship with Jesus.
  • You discipline yourself to control your thoughts so you can “think this way.”

I hope this mature thought from Paul will keep you thinking:

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

Philippians 4:8-9 ~The Message

Life: Infested or Invested

reflection-in-mirrorMy morning routine includes the couple of minutes I spend looking into the mirror.  This is not an exercise in vanity.  It’s just the best way to examine my wrinkled mug; apply the shaving cream; and wield the razor to shave my beard.

As I was checking the stubble on my face, I thought of Paul’s statement to the church at Corinth: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).”

When you think about it, there are several times each day that you take the time to check the quality of some item:

  • Bananas are checked to see if they are too ripe or too green.
  • Apples are examined to see if they are bruised.
  • When you buy something you check to make sure you have been given the correct amount of change.

How much time do you spend in spiritual self-examination?  The Psalmist said:  “I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies (Psalm 119:59).”  When he didn’t like what he saw, the author of the Psalm ironed out the wrinkles in his life by turning to God’s Word.

The methodology of the Psalms was the same message espoused by James (1:21-25):

Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;  for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

You have the freedom to look into the “perfect law of liberty” and to use it as a mirror to examine your life.  When you do this, what do you see?

  • Do you see a reflection of righteousness?
  • Is there an image of personal purity?
  • Do you recognize the features of faithfulness in the face you see?

A good mirror to use is a prayer in Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”spic n span

Let me suggest this prayer as a daily test:  Does this mirror reflect a life that’s infested by the ring-around-the-collar filth of the world or one that is invested in the spic and span principles of God’s Word?