I am grateful to be an American. I am grateful for the freedom to assemble and to speak, and the freedom of religion. What I hate about it is the rhetoric, the empty words of politicians. They make promises they have no intention of keeping. They say things to flatter their particular audience and then say something totally different to the next crowd. They have stump speeches which are nothing more than talking points that resonate with people who can’t think for themselves.
It reminds me of the words of the psalmist: “There is nothing reliable in what they say; their inward part is destruction itself. Their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue” (Psalm 5:9, NASU). We all watch that little line that runs along the bottom of ESPN and the news channels. It gives a variety of information. This verse would be a good sentence to run when politicians are speaking: They flatter, but what they say doesn’t matter.
Morris Gilber wrote, “The jawbone of an ass was a killer in Samson’s time. It still is.” Thomas Fuller said, “If I speak what is false, I must answer for it; if truth, it will answer for me.” The best current example is when candidates attack their opponents during a presidential primary. Then when chosen as Vice President or a Cabinet member, they say, AWe must understand that those words were spoken during a heated primary. We really didn’t mean them.” Really? I think what’s in the heart comes out of the mouth. If you think someone is unqualified to serve as President in March, it still applies in August (especially if you haven’t renounced or repented of saying those things before your selection as a running mate). Let’s get real and let’s get honest.
Abraham Lincoln was right, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” I like the words of James Russell Lowell: “Blessed are they who have nothing to say and who cannot be persuaded to say it.”
With the proliferation of the internet and of blogs, words are bombarding us. We are inundated with opinions and personal perspectives from politicians, Gen Xers, pundits, preachers, educators and everyone in between. Most of the words we hear are just hot air. While Americans always seem to be impressed with great communicators, just because a person has a charismatic personality or a way with words, doesn’t mean they are speaking the truth with our best interest in mind.
It’s wrong for a preacher to promise people prosperity by taking isolated texts or taking promises given to Israel and applying them to the 21st century church. That message doesn’t sell in a third world country. It’s also wrong for a politician to promise that he can add billions in government programs and at the same time cut your taxes. That won’t work, and anyone with a brain above plant life knows it.
It’s wrong for people to use letters to write harmful words while at the same time they don’t have the guts to sign their names. It’s wrong for newspapers to publish little columns where people can gripe, complain, accuse and fuss while having no accountability for signing their name. If that is what sells papers, then it’s time for papers to go out of business.
Check out a few truths from God’s Word. It will shed a lot of light on what I=m talking about:
“May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that speaks great things; who have said, ‘With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?’” (Psalm 12: 3,4)
“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” (Psalm 34:13)
“You let your mouth loose in evil and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.” (Psalm 50:19-21)
“Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, O worker of deceit. You love evil more than good, falsehood more than speaking what is right. Selah.” (Psalm 52:2,3)
When you look at the seven things God hates in Proverbs 6, notice how many deal with our tongues: “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers” (vv. 16-19). God is not pleased when we flippantly fly off on a verbal tangent or speak with the intent to hurt another or deceive someone.
James warns about the tongue. He calls it a wild beast and a fire. It has to be bridled. To our shame, the tongue needs revival. The tongue needs to be nailed to the cross. The tongue needs to be still and know that God is listening to every idle word spoken. What we say and how we say it matters.
There are things I wish I hadn’t said. There are things that happen when I get in my flesh in the “preaching moment” that I wish I could edit or retract. The reality is that guarding your tongue is a fulltime occupation. I have wounded people with my insensitive words. I have been misunderstood by my tone at times. All of us who speak for a living or as a calling stand guilty of this. We must not excuse it, but rather we must execute judgment on it.
Let us commit to speak the truth in love. Let us sing the truth with joy. Let us encourage one another. Let us confront sin and at the same time love sinners. Let us not speak self-righteously but with the realization that we are all sinners saved by grace.
Let these verses be our prayer today:
“Let my tongue sing of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness.” (Psalm 119:172)
“May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember You, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.” (Psalm 137:6)
“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)
“Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment.” (Proverbs 12:19)
“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23)
(Copyright 2008, Michael Catt)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.