Last week I offered my grandson Ollie (and his siblings) a surprise if he could go two days consistently “shooing” selfish birds and “landing” thankful ones.
Unfortunately for him…his mom got to be the judge of his success…so he didn’t get a surprise (on the first round)…he did get a “do over” and was successful on the second round.
I told him, as he was very distraught over his failure to control the birds, that I loved him no matter how well he did.
So how are you going with “thought birds?”…selfish, thankful…what has been nesting in your head this week?
Ollie said… “So, there are black birds(selfish) and red birds(thankful)(video)…are there blue ones for feeling sad?”
I said “Good point…we do feel sad and it’s not wrong to feel sad.”
But the thing is…we want to be people who more and more do what is good to do…and think what is good to think…regardless of the “thought birds” flying around us.
Ollie struggles when he is bored, or life becomes drudgery for him, or he doesn’t have something immediate to look forward to…sounds like me.
About mid-year (Junish) I often hear of people becoming bored (myself included) with the current topic (not always)
–Mark, Psalms, Romans, Proverbs…it is God’s word…but mid-year… “Yawn” “not working for me anymore.”
Same thing happens to jobs, school, relationships…weeks (mid-week), semesters (mid-semester), life (mid-life)
We ought to see an emerging theme here… “I continue to get bored, lose momentum…in a variety of circumstances…so maybe the main problem is not my circumstances.”
If we believe the problem is mainly external to us…we may go looking for wrong-headed solutions to the problem.
This is pure opportunity…we have the chance, over time…to become more and more content as people…God himself is offering that kind of life to us.
He is offering ongoing opportunity to change…we can be people who more and more reflect his glory and experience his joy.
But we have to continually choose to move towards him and what he offers…we can’t continually just succumb to our current mood…we can’t let the “mid-whatever…blahs” win the day.
He loves us no matter what…but there is a sort of “prize” he offers us…the prize of contentment, of joy, of resilience.
So…rouse yourself…today we have another opportunity to grow…this month we are looking to be changed in the super important area of our speech.
Today, we look at an anatomy of foolish speech
Next week, an anatomy of wise speech
Quick review from last week:
- Words originate in the heart
- Our hearts are a work in progress
- So…we want to walk intentionally and persistently in the path of the wise…to change heart and habits.
It might be more accurate to say that next week we will look at the anatomy of wise words but this week we look at the pathology of foolish words.
Pathology is the study of disease.
Our foolish words, are in fact the result of our sin.
In Christ’s death on the cross, God dealt decisively with our sin…we are now “not guilty” if we are “in Christ”
However, we are also not perfect…we still sin…and so we are in this lifelong process of “discipleship with Jesus” to become more like him in both heart and habit.
This process of change is a collaboration of God’s power and our choices.
So…we really want to use words that honor God and encourage others.
We want to increasingly be rid of words that are contrary to those goals.
In fact, we should be getting better in the use of our words the longer we walk with Jesus.
If this is not happening…that is not “normal” in Biblical terms…it is common (to remain unchanged)…but not normal.
Normal, in terms of biblical ideal…is to become more like Jesus in thoughts, actions…including our speech…the longer we live life with him.
If you don’t think you are making adequate progress…don’t despair…but do begin to take action…more or different action.
Part of that action…is what we are doing today…looking a pathology report on foolish words…so we can move towards health.
Before we jump into what Proverbs says about foolish words…let me hold up the ultimate example of wise or healthy words…this from the New Testament.
“Don’t 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
That verse is sort of like one of the various charts/graphs we see for ideal health…weight charts, Cholesterol, blood pressure…whatever.
None of us has perfect health in our words…but that verse…that is the goal.
To speak for the good of others…to meet their needs.
Before we look at the pathology report let me remind you of a certain kind of fool in Proverbs…The Mocker:
One of the strongest words for a fool in Proverbs refers to “foolish speech” they are called “mockers” or “scorners”
One who mocks, uses language to hurt others, to laugh or to ridicule others…they do this to make themselves look good or smart or powerful…they disregard God because they mistreat people with their words.
It is so interesting that a name for one of the three main categories of “fools” is a name that refers to what they say.
“The godly are showered with blessings; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions.” 10:6
“The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush, but the words of the godly save lives.” 12:6
“Throw out the mocker, and the fighting goes too. Quarrels and insults will disappear.” 22:6
My assumption is that no one listening is a full-blown fool, or a mocker…otherwise you probably wouldn’t still be listening.
But folly is a spectrum…as is foolish speech.
So not everyone is a full-blown fool but everyone acts foolishly at times.
Not everyone is a mocker but everyone uses the words of a mocker at times.
So…on to our pathology report…but I have great news before we look at it…our condition has a cure!
The gospel applied to our speech is the cure…so our condition is not fatal or even permanent.
Here’s how we will examine this “word pathology” report…we will look at the main categories of foolish speech in Proverbs and then do some examination and application as we go.
Lies: The largest category of foolish words in the book of Proverbs is the lie.
“A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness breathes lies.” 14:5
“The Lords hates…lying tongue” 6:16-19
“Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow.” 25:18
A lie is “intended deception.”
We sometimes tell the “facts” but in a way that is intentionally misleading.
This is still intended deception.
It amazing how often lying is thought to be not just normal but a necessary aspect of relationships.
I have seen tons of movies or TV shows in my life where lying was used for the “good of others.”
Lies are presented in these shows as a necessity for a relationship to thrive or survive.
What is interesting is that almost always in addition to lying presented as being essential in shows…lies end up doing great damage to people in these same shows…I guess they miss the irony of that.
So in these shows…that do reflect the way general culture thinks…lies are required for relationships to survive and they are also the cause of relational demise…our culture is confused.
Lies can misrepresent the past(saying what isn’t true about what happened)
Or the future (making a commitment with no intention of fulfilling it)
Now, if you made a commitment (with the intention of fulfilling it) and something happens that you cannot control…you did not lie…though you may have been foolish in making the promise.
But if you made a promise that you should not have made then do your best to get out of it…humble yourself and admit you were wrong.
Proverbs 6:1-5 describes a situation where a person has made a foolish commitment and they are urged to humble themselves, go and plea to be released.
But there are times…when you have to keep your word even if it costs you.
My own preferred form of intended deception has been to exaggerate my words to shape outcomes in my favor.
For instance: To give all the negative aspects of what I don’t want to do and only the positive aspects of what I do what to do.
Not a super malicious form of deception…but still pretty selfish…and it definitely reveals a heart problem.
*So, self-examination time:
How do you use “intended deception” in relationships?
And why do you use it?
Perhaps you very directly use lies in relationships with others…why do you that?
Lying occasionally “works” in movies…but it won’t work for you.
Will you repent of lying?
Jesus is the “truth”
Satan is the father “originator” of lies.
We want to steer clear of deception in all of its forms…it is the domain of darkness not light.
Let’s go on in.
“I see on my own report I have a slight case of ‘argumentitus’”
Arguments is another form of foolish speech in Proverbs.
The wise person doesn’t avoid hard words when necessary but the fool picks fights just for the sake of fighting.
Fools love to quarrel
“A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood.” 26:21
If you are person who seems to find yourself often in an argument…you are likely the hot ember…the quarrelsome person.
Listen to what Paul told Timothy about arguments.
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Tim. 2:23-26
Now here, Paul is referring specifically about arguments related to the gospel…or the truth of God.
But it has wider application…we are not to be known as people who are constantly in arguments.
We are not to be known as quarrelers…if someone opposes us…the goal should be their good not our own verbal victory.
The gospel is good news…it is about the proclamation of freedom it is not about picking fights.
There is a time for confrontation, and the wise neither run from it nor to it.
For me, my tendency to argue flows from my pride…my desire to be right (or not to be wrong).
This is, of course, foolish.
Humility opens up God’s power in our lives…pride shuts it down.
Most arguments (maybe all) flow from some form of pride.
Again…don’t over apply this…sometimes we need to work hard, wrestle with one another verbally in order to connect.
Eph 4:29…asks the question “is my goal here relationship, love, connection…or simply to be right, to win?”
Whose good am I after in this?
So take a look at your own word pathology report?
What do you see?
Do you run to arguments? Do you love to win/hate to lose in all forms of verbal engagements?
Maybe you don’t run to arguments…but you certainly will not tolerate losing one?
How much of your response to others looks like what Christ would do and say?
He didn’t run from confrontation…but all of his speech had the good of others not self as the engine driving it.
Group of words that describe speech designed to put others in a bad light and often to make ourselves look better or smart.
“The gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” 11:13
“Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart” 18:8
Basic differences between Slander, Rumor and gossip:
Slander is something clearly false that you repeat to others.
Rumors are negative reports about others based on uncertain evidence.
Gossip may very well be true but it spoken to inappropriate people and/or at inappropriate times.
So, all three, whether the information is false, maybe true, or is true…are words that are not spoken for the good of others.
But it’s not just speaking gossip or spreading slander that is foolish but listening to it is, as well.
“Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander.” 17:4
This can be tough…but we are responsible to not listen to what others should not be saying to us.
We don’t need to do this arrogantly, or abrasively…but we must be ready to have the courage to say “let’s not talk about this…I don’t believe it helpful for them or us.”
This can be a judgment call…sometimes we need to get input from others on how to respond or how to help people.
So…I don’t have any rules for you…but look to the heart…why are you listening to this? Why are they saying this?
Just like fire needs fuel to burn, gossips need listeners to continue their gossip.
“Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” 26:20
So…take a look at your own report…see any of this gossip, slander, rumor on there?
Make a note…what steps do you need to take to get a handle on this?
*Ask God to change your heart…if you have learned to love gossip, rumor, slander…this is something your heart has attached itself to because of choices you have made.
You can change…you must change.
You do not want to have that kind of heart…you want God to give you a heart that hates what it currently loves…what it has learned to love.
Your heart can unlearn to love things…just as it can learn to love things that are good to love.
Okay, the next item on my report looks like two different things…but it’s really one disease.
“Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth; a stranger, not your own lips.” 27:2
Look at how the promiscuous women in Prov. 7 uses flattery to ruin a man.
“She seduced him with her pretty speech and enticed him with her flattery. He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter.” 7:21-22
Now, of course he ruins himself because his own pride makes him susceptible to flattery.
Though flattery and bragging are different in many ways both intentionally embellish for self-serving purposes.
We brag to self-promote…to get something for ourselves.
Flattery is excessive compliments with the hidden purpose of getting something for self
So bragging or flattering is the use of words to serve self, not others…you see the theme of foolish words.
They are foolish because they are self-serving.
Love, Paul wrote in 1 Cor 13…is not proud, it does not boast…why not?
Because love is busy considering the other person…rather than being caught up in self.
Remember: this is the goal, the direction to head…no one is getting this perfectly.
I’ll it say once again…don’t over apply this .
This doesn’t mean you can never accept an award or tell someone of a success or something you are happy about that has happened…because you are afraid of “boasting” or “flattering”
This kind of pathology…boasting or flattery…is about words used to promote self over others.
We are to use words to build relationships and build others up…this means we will at times tell people things that we are excited and happy about.
Boasting is self-serving, letting others rejoice with you is relationship.
Flattery is self-serving, encouragement is wise.
So…do a self-exam…is this on your own report?
It may not be…don’t look for what isn’t there.
But if it is…why is it there?
If it is there…
Will you take action against speech used to manipulate others (flattery)?
Against Speech used to exalt self (boasting)
Okay, one more on my report:
We will call this “ready/fire/aim” speech…speaking before fully hearing.
This is firing off words without first engaging your ears/mind…getting all the facts.
Let me read a favorite verse of mine:
“The one who answers before listening that is to their folly and shame.” 18:13
It is foolish, and harmful to respond to others before you have heard them out.
Parents (grandparents)…we often to do this to children.
We assume we already know where they are going with their words…and shut them down.
I have done better at this professional than personally, though I have failed many times professionally.
By professionally I mean when someone has come to me for counsel as a pastor or chaplain.
I learned that if I didn’t listen long enough…I often spoke in ways that missed the point and lost the opportunity.
I say I haven’t done as well “personally”…because when I take off my “pastor/chaplain” hat…and resume “normal life”…I can resort to quick responses without full engagement…I do this with my wife, friends and family.
“Well, Terry, that’s not right…to be one way professionally and another personally.”
Of course it not right…that’s why it’s on my pathology report…is it on yours?
If so…what will you do to move towards being more like Christ in this area…both heart and habit?
How will you work and pray…to be quicker to listen and slower to speak?
Okay…that’s enough for today…my report might seem pretty bad…and it is.
But my prognosis is quite good…I’m actually very encouraged.
Let me read what the good doctor Jesus put at the bottom of my report
“Terry, there is a lot here, and you will always need to give attention to these issues…but don’t be discouraged…you can be confident of this…I am faithful and I will complete the good work I have started in you.” Phil 1:6
Whew, what a relief…I’m going to get better.
And actually, more than just a relief…it’s motivating… My words can more and more bring life and encouragement to others…that’s pretty exciting.
God loves us pathology and all…but we can move towards health in our words…that is great news!