The Powerful Tongue
Last week, my wife and I took our kids down to South Texas for the weekend to see their Gramma and Danpa. Shortly after arriving, my wife asked me if I could go grab the diapers out of the backseat of the car. Now, I was confused, because I just came back from there, and I was pretty sure there were no diapers in the backseat of that car. Fearing I might have somehow missed them, I went back out to the car for a second look. They were nowhere to be found, so I expanded my search to other parts of the vehicle. (It might be important to note here that we own a minivan with a front, middle, and back row of seats).
Shortly after expanding my search, I found the diapers in the middle row of seats, not the back row of seats. When I got back inside the house with the diapers, I had to make sure she knew I was right, and she was wrong. After I drove my point home, I was surprised to find out her point of view; she believed all of the seats behind the front row are back seats.
As you can imagine, this sparked a little debate. It was my middle and back seats wording, versus her back seats only point of view. Luckily for me, this didn’t escalate to anything more than some playful banter. By the end of this little dispute, both of us had forgotten all about the diapers and the original task to “go get the diapers out of the car.”
I tell you this story because I saw a correlation between my wife and I in this situation and what the Bible teaches us about how the tongue and quarreling over words can cause ruin. While our dispute was silly and mostly harmless, it could have opened the door to hurt our relationship with one another. As a matter of fact, it unnecessarily caused our baby girl to sit in a soiled diaper for 10 minutes. Neither of us in this situation was more wrong or right than the other. The right answer depended on the angle you were looking at it from, and whether you had your morning coffee or not. Honestly, why does it matter who was right, as long as the diapers were found and our baby girl got the diaper change she needed? As individuals, it is easy for us to be blinded by trivial debates that have little to no value towards God's Kingdom, causing us to overlook or even destroy the opportunities and relationships given to us to teach God's Word.
“Remind [believers] of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.”(2 Timothy 2:14)
We should talk less, listen more, and understand where others are coming from. We talk a lot about how we should go out to where people congregate and teach the word, but these discussions usually stop with physical places. We too often completely ignore the mental or spiritual state of mind of those around us. In Acts 17, we see Paul conversing with the men of Athens to understand their point of view and share with them his own point of view. Instead of disputing and rebuking the men of Athens for their misuse of idol worship, he instead finds common ground with them by first commending them for their religious set of mind. He then addresses the real issue: that the true and only God is missing from these people’s lives. And he teaches them this from their own perspective using the “unknown God” as his common ground.
"To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some." (1 Cor. 9:21-22)
We should try to ignore others’ incorrect use of semantics, ignore our own preconceived ideas, get to the point, and weigh that against God’s Word. Too often, we as individuals miss out on others’ thought provoking ideas by latching onto their misuse of a word, phrase, or date before trying to understand and consider the point they are making. This will usually derail the original intent of the discussion, causing people who needed it most to miss an opportunity to be edified. Similarly, we can learn from the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Martha had just invited Jesus into her house, when she became distracted with housework. After complaining to Jesus about how her sister Mary wasn’t helping, Jesus rebuked her for quarreling over busywork and missing out on the opportunity to sit at his feet and learn.
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."(Eph. 5:15-17)
We should be focused on cultivating relationships with those outside of God’s Word, finding opportunities to teach and build them up in His Work. It’s foolish to engage in these types of quarrels, because it creates unnecessary dissension, leaving everyone who is involved discouraged. It can also discredit not only our own, but also our Christian family’s understanding of God’s Word from an outsider’s point of view. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas find themselves beaten and imprisoned for casting out a demon that the people of Philippi didn’t want cast out. Paul and Silas could have been arguing with the Philippian Jailer and creating a scene because of their wrongful persecution. Instead, they sat in their cell peacefully praying and singing hymns to God while cultivating a relationship with the Philippian Jailer that eventually lead to his salvation.
"Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." (Colossians 4:5-6)
Paul obviously felt like quarreling over words was big enough of an issue that he encouraged both Timothy and Titus to remind people not to do it. This is something that the world in general struggles with, and is seen at work, with friends, over social media, in the church, and even within a family. As silly as it was, my wife and I could have easily avoided the whole situation all together, if I didn’t have to be right. It would have saved us time, and we could have been doing something more meaningful with those 10 minutes, like changing our baby girl’s soiled diaper. After all, that was the whole point of going out to the car in the first place. When it comes to eternal salvation, does it really matter if we’re all pronouncing Maher-shalal-hash-baz the same way, or that we are all prepared for the day when Jesus comes knocking on our door?
- James Dow