Murder by Mouth

Image in public domain


You shall not murder. – Exodus 20:13(NIV)

Most of the memories of my college days are not ones I remember with fondness. I learned some hard lessons of life during those pressure-filled academic years.

One incident in particular I still recall with pain. My friends and I had planned a surprise birthday party on our dormitory floor for our friend Penny (names have been changed). Since we had to wait for her to return from some contrived errand, I decided to spend a few quiet moments with my boyfriend in the downstairs social room.

About the time Penny was to have come back, Tammy, one of the party planners, approached me.

“Penny isn’t back yet,” she said, “but I’ll let you know as soon as she comes.”

Then she went upstairs and told the girls, including Penny, who had returned, that I said I didn’t want to come. After that I had no friends.

Murder by mouth. With her lie, Tammy destroyed precious friendships, my reputation, and what little joy I found in college.

The tongue, James wrote, “is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. . . . It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. . . . It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:5–8).

The tongue is sharper than any knife, slicing into the aorta of someone’s character with malicious gossip and causing a reputation to bleed to death. And we hone our skills of verbal cruelty. Maybe that story we’re repeating is true, however unkind. But does it build up or tear down?

“With his mouth,” the writer of Proverbs notes, “the godless destroys his neighbor” (Proverbs 11:9).

But lies, slander, and gossip aren’t the only ways we murder with our mouths. We are adept at destroying dreams, too.

We tell our kids to “aim for the stars,” then shoot them down when they do. A high school athlete dreams of being a major league ballplayer. A young girl aspires to be an astronaut. A want-to-be writer wrestles with putting a sentence together. A learning- disabled student dreams of becoming a teacher. Do we support them in their pursuits, unlikely as their dreams may seem to us? Or do we “bring them down to reality” with words that are meant to “soften the landing”?

Who knows, maybe that aspiring ballplayer will be the one in 10,000 who will make it to the big leagues. Perhaps that young woman will walk on the moon someday – or discover another star. Or that aspiring writer will win a Pulitzer Prize. And the student who struggles will become the best teacher because he understands and knows how to help.

Words can kill joy, too. Have you ever said something to someone and watched the light die out of their eyes? Maybe your husband did the laundry and you complain that the clothes aren’t folded right. Or perhaps your daughter cleaned the kitchen or your son washed your car, and instead of telling them you appreciate their efforts, you find the places they missed. Or maybe your wife went out of her way and took time, in spite of a busy schedule, to cook your favorite meal and you comment that the meat is a “little tough.”

“Do to others what you would have them do to you,” Jesus commanded us (Matthew 7:12). That includes our speech: “Say to others what you would have them say to you.” Framing our words in a positive manner means applying the Philippians 4:8 rule to our speech: Say only the words that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

Words can bring death or life. The choice is ours.

Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. – Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)

Let me always be an encourager, Lord. Amen.

Read and meditate on James 3:2–12; Psalm 119:81–96

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Generation Gap

My father and mother in 1959 relaxing during a vacation at Cook Forest. I’m the one in the cowboy hat (I was horse crazy). I was 7 years old then.


Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. – Exodus 20:12 (NIV)

Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, I understood the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother,” to mean to obey and respect them, not to talk back to them or make fun of them. But “honor” means more than that – it also means to cherish, to prize highly, to treat as precious and valuable.

Like most kids, though, I didn’t appreciate my parents until I became a parent myself. Then it was too late. Dad died when I was 20, and Mom suffered from Alzheimer’s disease until she died 15 years later.

My parents’ generation fought World War II and the Korean War. Many didn’t even finish high school because they wanted to do their part. After the war, they married, raised families, supported their churches, and built communities.

My generation fought a war, too – the Vietnam War. Some of us lost our lives and our loves over there. Those who returned, returned to a nation in tumult: abortion on demand. Assassinations. Riots. They returned to war protesters, flag burners, draft dodgers, and Hollywood actresses siding with the enemy and making them feel ashamed for “doing their part.” They returned to “flower power” that was little more than a façade for crumbling values and moral decay.

So where are we with “honor your father and mother” today – now that we of the flower power generation are of retiring age? Forbidding prayer in schools was only the beginning. Now, headed by the media, the government, and lawyers who claim to fight for what they call “civil liberties,” society is doing its best to stamp out any reminder of God.

The greatest empires in history were not conquered from without, but crumbled from within. And it all started with moral decay. How do we reverse this downward slide? It all comes back to the fifth commandment, which Paul explained to the Ephesians: “Honor your father and your mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth – (Ephesians 6:2-3 NIV, emphasis mine).

The first commandment established the ultimate authority: God. The fifth commandment established authority in the home. There’s nothing said of government in the rest of the commandments. No other laws but to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as yourself (Matthew 22:36–40).

Fourteen hundred years after God gave the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, the apostle Paul described the last days: “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1–5 NIV).

Where did this all start? One Bible commentator wrote, in commenting on the fifth commandment, “Not only in Israel, but in all nations and individual lives, the destruction of the home marks the beginning of the end” (Wycliffe Bible Commentary).

So how to reverse the trend? It all starts in the home. First, put God where He belongs – in first place. Then build strong homes founded on God’s Word, honoring our parents and teaching the next generation to respect the authority God Himself established.

“A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother.” – Proverbs 10:1 (NIV)

Father, when I look at the world around me, I feel only despair. How far we’ve come from what You planned for us to be! Help us to get our lives back in line with Your Word. Amen.

Read and meditate on Proverbs 23:22–25; Psalm 119:65–80

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.