Set a Watch

When we speak, we have a reason for doing so, a goal, a motive. We’ll be judged by what we say, and for why we say it, so we should be careful whenever our mouth is open, and set up a kind of gate keeper, a watch, a guard, to check every syllable coming out. (Ps 141:3) What should we be checking for?

First, is what we’re saying true? Is it aligned with reality, as best we know? If it isn’t, we shouldn’t say it; only speak truth. (Pr 8:7) Lying isn’t an option. (Ps 119:163)

Yet even if something’s true, that doesn’t mean we should say it. (Jn 16:12) We need to be thinking about our audience, and considering how our words will impact them. Speaking truth is insufficient in itself; we must speak the truth in love. (Ep 4:15)

We should speak to heal and build up (Ro 14:19), and this requires discernment. (Pr 15:28) Pushing truth on those who aren’t willing to obey deepens their condemnation (2Pe 2:21), and there are deeper truths that only the mature can digest. (1Co 3:2)

How often am I trying to impress someone, showing off? or just thinking out loud, sorting through my own confusion, and simply filling the air with my words? or trying to manipulate someone into doing what I want, focused inward, on myself? Am I ever actually trying to harm someone? (Pr 12:18)

Do I listen to others, trying to understand where they’re coming from? How can I edify you if I don’t know you, without any sense of what you’re struggling with, where you’ve been wounded, how you’ve been lied to?

We’re doctors in a pandemic, amid the sick and dying. We have a cure, a balm, a surgical knife, but most folk don’t want to be well, only to be at ease in their diseases. (Jn 3:19) We can only help those who sense their need and want to be whole (Mk 2:17), and even these we cannot rightly help unless we understand their need. We must ask and listen, observe and ponder, diagnosing our patient first. (Php 2:4) What does the Great Physician in us see? What do we we see Him doing?

Pray before speaking (Ja 1:19); let God Himself be the watchman of our lips. (Ps 19:14)

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Speak Truth

Being able to take someone at their word is the foundation of every healthy relationship; believing we’re each speaking the truth enables us to understand and trust each other. Without this, no working relationship is even possible. Lying thus strikes at the very heart of friendship, and even of civilization itself.

Jordan Peterson challenges us to try to stop lying for 30 days, just to see what happens. Perhaps it’s striking … that we’re so accustomed to lying we need to be dared to stop; but it shouldn’t be a surprise – this is the default human condition. (Jn 3:19) But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try; God can help us choose truthful speech as a pattern of life. (Ps 119:29)

Lying doesn’t just harm friendships and society, it rewires our own brains, distorting our very own nervous systems such that we can no longer properly orient ourselves in the world and recognize reality as it is. (Pr 1:28)

Deception is aligning our very own behavior contrary to the way we ourselves perceive reality, which signals our brains and bodies that reality isn’t what our senses are telling us; this actually corrupts and fractures our own ability to accurately perceive reality. (Pr 5:22) We deceive ourselves when we don’t act out the truth we already know (Ja 1:22), and self-imposed deception is the most dreadful kind of deception. (Mt 6:23)

Yet just because something’s true doesn’t necessarily mean we should volunteer it in conversation with others (Ep 4:15); there are dimensions of truth that others are not ready to hear. (Jn 16:12) Spewing truth with the wrong motive can be very destructive (Pr 12:18a); we must carefully consider whether our speech will tend to the general health and well-being of both ourselves and others (18b), and only speak in love. (Ep 4:15)

The real challenge comes when we feel pressed to speak truth that’s harmful or destructive. We might think we have no choice but to lie or let the truth do its harm, yet violating the law of Love isn’t an option (Ep 5:2); if our words won’t edify and help the overall situation, they’re forbidden. (Ep 4:29) Rather than letting others dictate our choices, we’re obligated in such cases to wisely re-focus the conversation on what’s truly edifying.

Consider the example of Christ, when those He’d miraculously fed were trying to forcibly make Him king. (Jn 6:15) After He evaded them by walking across a lake at night (18-19), they sought after Him and caught up with Him (24), asking how He’d managed to slip away. (25) Rather than telling them about the miracle, or offering them a little white lie in its place, Christ turned the attention on their true need. (26-27)

We’re made in the image of God as co-creators in eternity, and it’s primarily through our speech that we create. Whenever we open our mouths to speak, we fashion metaphysical reality from the void before us, bringing an eternal work into being which shall ultimately be on display before the entire universe for inspection and evaluation (Lk 12:3): we’ll give an account to God for every idle word we utter. (Mt 12:36) Let all the reality we create be true and right and good, for it’s by our words that we’ll either be justified or condemned. (37)

Speak truth to everyone, all the time (Ep 4:25), yet only speak prayerfully, as Christ Himself would speak (Col 3:17), seeking God for the ability to glorify Him and edify others. (Col 4:6) It’s wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep quiet (Ec 3:7), and as a rule, less is better. (Pr 10:19) As we speak, let’s remember the power of words (Pr 18:21), and speak appropriately. (Pr 15:23) While some truth cannot be spoken in love (1Co 3:2), there’s never a good time to lie. (Ps 119:163)

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