Friday, October 16, 2009

Respectable Sins - Sins of the Tongue (Ch 19)

Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges

Chapter 19 - Sins of the Tongue

In some ways I was surprised by the the shortness of this chapter (only ~4 pages). Everything Bridges said made sense, I had just expected more of it. He acknowledges that when he told people what this book was about (acceptable or respectable sins), people would generally say 'oh like gossip?'

As Bridges makes clear though, sins of the tongue, while including gossip,
must also include lying, slander, critical speech (even when true), harsh words, insults, sarcasm and ridicule. In fact, we would have to say that any speech that tends to tear down another person - either someone we are talking about or someone we are talking to - is sinful speech (p159)
Bridges refers to Ephesians 4:29 as the verse that has impacted him the most on this issue:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Eph 4:29)
Jesus speaking to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:34 says "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."
This means that although we speak of sins of the tongue, our real problem is our heart. Behind all of our gossip, slander, critical speech, insults, and sarcasm is our sinful heart. The tongue is only the instruments that reveals what's in our hearts. (p162)
So, while this chapter may have been short, it still definitely gave me some things to think about. I found myself challenged in three areas (well, more probably, but I'll keep it short!)
  1. Do I speak the best words I can to my children? I do use harsh words, I do use angry words and I do use an annoyed tone. How am I building them up with this? I'm not. Yes, they need teaching and correction, but they need it with love and patience not irritability and impatience.
  2. Do I speak the best words I can to my spouse or closest friends about others? I think sometimes in marriage (or close friendships) we can excuse the comments we make about other people, knowing that our spouse understands our need to 'vent' and that we would never dream of telling anyone else the same things. But we are not being loving, we should not even be speaking (or thinking!) such things. Our reaction to things is always our own responsibility. And as spouses (or close friends) we should we willing to challenge our loved ones about the way they speak of others.
  3. I have been challenged a number of times recently to reconsider the Australian culture of always 'bagging people out': the rude comments we make only to friends to show affection. I do not excel at this sport, but I certainly have been known to contribute. It is very unhelpful to people from other cultures because it is not a type of humour they are used to. But, I also think it is not helpful for Australians either - we are notoriously bad at being open and honest with each other, and we rarely give or receive honest compliments. So perhaps the next time we think of 'bagging someone out', let's try to turn it into a helpful comment instead.
I'll finish with another verse that Bridges quoted from, which each of us could easily turn into our own personal prayer:
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Some things to think about:
  1. Which sins of the tongue do you struggle with - gossip, slander, harsh words, sarcasm, ridicule, insults...? If you are uncertain, ask someone close to you for their opinion!
  2. Do you need to seek forgiveness from someone for the words you have spoken to them?
  3. How are you going to change the way you speak?

On Monday: Chapter 20 - Worldliness

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