Murder by Mouth

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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.

My Day of Rest

 

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. – Psalm 23:2-3 (NIV)

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” – Exodus 20:8

It’s funny how songs from childhood stay with us throughout life. I remember my mother singing along with the songs that blasted from the radio that sat atop the refrigerator as she went about her housework. Singing made the work seem easier, the time go by faster, and lightened the load of responsibility, care, and worry.

I especially remember one song that even I liked to sing: “Oh, you can kiss me on a Monday, a Monday, a Monday is very, very good. Or you can kiss me on a Tuesday, a Tuesday, a Tuesday, in fact, I wish you would. Or you can kiss me on a Wednesday, a Thursday, a Friday, a Saturday is best, but never, ever on a Sunday, a Sunday, a Sunday, ’cause that’s my day of rest” (“My Day of Rest”).

Sixty years later I still find myself quietly singing the lyrics, especially when Sunday has become anything but a day of rest. When I was a child, Sundays meant reading the comics (we called them the “funnies”), going to church, having a sit-down dinner of roast beef with the entire family, and relaxing the rest of the day.

I remember when I first became aware of the increased pace of life on Sundays. We live in the country, and for years we attended a small country church near our home and rarely had a reason to come to town on a Sunday. One Sunday we came to town to bring my daughter’s friend, who’d spent the weekend with us, home. Town was as busy – even busier, I thought – than a weekday. Cars were buzzing down the main street, blocking intersections, and jumping red lights, all in a hurry to get where they were going. Parking lots were full.

“Whatever happened to Sunday being a day of rest?” I wondered.

Modern technology has given us devices that save time and labor, but what do we do with the time we save? Cram more activities into already over-crowded schedules. Stress has become a major health issue.

After putting in a 40-plus-hour work week, it’s tempting to use Sunday as an extra Saturday. I find I’m living my life like I drive: hurried, tail-gating slow pokes, jumping red lights, slowing down, and cruising through stop signs. I have to remind myself that “stop” means exactly that. It doesn’t mean “merge” or “yield.”

And that’s what Sabbath literally means. Sabbath comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to stop or to rest from work.” God Himself set the example: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:2–3).

Holy in this case means “set apart for special use.” No other day was blessed, only Sunday. No other day was set apart, only Sunday. Sunday was not meant to be a burden, but a time of laying aside the burdens and focusing on rest and worship. Remember what Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

Sunday is a gift – a gift of time. Time for restoration, time for re-energizing rundown, worn-out bodies and spirits, time to focus on all that God is and does, and worship Him. And true worship, like singing, will make work the rest of the week seem easier and the burdens we carry lighter.

Help me, Lord, to put away the ever-present do-list on Sunday and take that nap, because I know I will feel better the rest of the week. Amen.

Read and meditate on Exodus 20:8–11; Psalm 119:49–64

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.