I find it most disturbing when scripture speaks to me personally. It is much easier and more comfortable if I can glean truth related to the general population or someone else in particular. Nevertheless, I suspect it is time to hit things head on.
Verbal communication can be like a tinder box waiting to explode. A virtual ticking bomb that we hear, but often have little control over. I think James puts it this way, “It (the tongue) is a restless evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:8b).” With the slightest inflection of the tongue we can trigger the bomb and cause massive destruction.
Let’s look at an example. Take the phrase, (appropriate to the season), “I did not say the politician cheated on his wife.” Suppose I put the reflection on the primary verb… “I did not say, ‘the politician cheated on his wife.'” It adds a certain meaning. If I move the inflection to the verb of the direct object, “I did not say, ‘the politician cheated on his wife.'” It adds a whole other nuance.
If we take this same principle and move it to our own daily conversation with or about other people, it is easy to see how a certain inflection can produce a reflection on the situation that could cause “confusion.”
The writer of Proverbs says, “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him.” (6:16) Hate is a strong word. It conjures certain images in our mind that are seldom positive. It is hard for us to think of God as hating, we would rather think of God as loving. It is more comfortable for us to imagine things that are an abomination to God. That is, things that are morally repugnant. Nevertheless, hate and abomination are ascribe to God regarding certain things. I’ll not reiterate the list, but I make one observation. Three of the seven noted in Proverbs 6:17-19 relate specifically to verbal communication.
“A lying tongue…a false witness….one who sows discord…”
For the purpose of this writing, I will eliminate “false witness” and focus my attention on the other two.
A lying tongue may be described as one who finds it difficult to tell the truth under any or most circumstances. I know a couple of men like that and of course, it impacts any sense of trust or confidence I might place in their words. It was/is never comfortable talking with those people.
“One who sows discord” is most representative of “inflection and reflection.” This person uses words to plant seeds of doubt and confusion, so that they might weaken a person’s or group of people’s reputation or credibility. They never overtly say this or that, rather they subtly imply or inflect a certain meaning in their words that produces the desired results. I have a penchant for doing this type of thing. Usually not maliciously, but nevertheless, it comes out. Fortunately, I have Christian friends who do the same, so I do not always feel alone in my discomfort.***
God hates that kind of talk. That makes me cringe, because that kind of talk is often a weapon in my arsenal of self-defense. It is a tool to keep people off balance and uncomfortable; to keep me “in charge.” It issues from weakness not strength. How pitiful is that?
For more on this you can read James 3 – for now, let is suffice to say…
Father, I am guilty. I confess the kind of speech that you hate. Forgive me and let me yield my tongue to the power of your Spirit that it might be tamed and brought under control.
***Did you notice how that statement does exactly what I am referencing?