I was recently seated in the foyer of a local business waiting for my wife.  I take it upon myself to attempt to do something constructive while I am waiting such as playing Angry Birds or resisting the urge to play Angry Birds.  On this particular day, playing won out over resisting, so I found myself seated in an inconspicuous corner of the foyer, out of the way and unnoticed by those around me.

Safely out of the way and ignored, I was free to mind my own business and play my game.  My ninja-like abilities to hide must be greater than I ever imagined because two workers soon began having a conversation near me.  I was startled at first, thinking one of them was talking to me.  It turns out the two employees were oblivious to my presence or worse yet, apathetic.

Once the usual pleasantries were out of the way, the workers began to discuss their jobs.  I have to stress at this point that I was not ease-dropping on these individuals.  I was merely sitting in close proximity to them as they had their conversation.  In truth, I was conflicted as to whether staying put or awkwardly slipping away was the right course of action.  I tried to tune them out.  It worked for the most part, but I did come away with a few impressions.

  • Both seemed to dislike their jobs
  • Both seemed to dislike their co-workers
  • Both seemed to question their supervisor’s motives and parentage

They spoke of much more, yet I was able to block it out and focus on my game.  To protect the innocent and the business in question, I will not disclose names.  The point of this post is not to bash the business or the workers.  I also feel the need to point out that I did not listen to this conversation in context, nor did I try to piece together a psycho-analysis for these two employees.  I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and overheard two disgruntled workers venting to one another.  Okay, I feel now that I have put in the right amount of disclaimers, on to the rest of the post!

My wife soon arrived and I forgot about the conversation as I spent time with my family.  It was not until we were traveling home that the day’s events came back to me.  It came back to me because my wife and I were having an “adult” conversation with one another in our mini-van (adult conversation is anything that does not involve a Disney or Nickelodeon character).  As we are having this discussion, my son chimes in with his four year old expert opinion on the matter.  Even though I had personally strapped him into a car seat and was well aware he and his sister were directly behind us in the van, I had forgotten they were there as I talked with my wife.

My initial thought was to review the conversation.  Did I say something bad?  Were we talking about a topic that was going to take me hours to explain at home?  My wife and I are so careful to shield our children from the wrong influences, and I’ll be the first to admit sometimes we may err too far to the side of caution.  But, we know that once that innocence and wonder of childhood is lost, there is not going back.  Did I just ruin years of protecting him with a thoughtless word?

Neither my wife nor I have a coarse tongue.  Though my childhood was steeped in profanities from adults and children alike, it is not a habit that fit in with my commitment to Christ, so after great growing pains in the grace of my Lord, I left it behind.  However, when it comes to the tongue, vulgarity is not the only issue.

Does my tone or humor offend and become a hindrance to the Gospel.  Am I overly critical of my wife, my children, or my congregation?  My humor tends to lean toward sarcasm and satire, but is it creating a barrier between me and those around me?

Former pastors and teachers have told me for years to guard my tongue.  I have even preached from my own pulpit on the benefit of guarding the tongue and the dangers of a loose tongue.  James is right on target when he says, “But the tongue no man can tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:8).  The Apostle Peter was also concerned about the tongue, urging believers, “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile” (1 Pet. 3:10).

As I thought about my words and searched the Bible for answers, I came across Paul’s instruction to the Ephesians, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29).  The term corrupt means something that is putrid and of no use.  It carries with it the imagery of rotting fish or fruit.  For anyone that has had the displeasure of being assaulted with such odors, the meaning is clear.

So be mindful of what you say and how you say it.  Do not let your speech be reminiscent of rotting fish.  You never know when a portly shepherd with ninja-like abilities is hiding in a corner!