I remember when my oldest son was four years old it was obvious our family values towards smoking had rubbed off. This was most apparent when we saw him walk up to someone smoking and say loudly and authoritatively, “You’re going to die”. The words may be true, but timing and context is important to consider.
In Job 25 Bildad the Shuhite states a theological treatise to Job as to the supremacy of God and the low position of us humans, but there must have been something in the tone and timing that was off. Job responds in the next chapter with some of the best sarcasm ever written when he says, “How you have helped the powerless! How you have saved the arm that is feeble! What advice you have offered to one without wisdom! And what great insight you have displayed! (NIV)”
At the end of the book Bildad is one of those told to offer sacrifice and to ask Job to pray for them. God even states that Bildad and his two friends had not spoken of God in a manner that was right.
Speaking the truth is not enough by itself. Just saying something merely because it is true can be judgmental, cruel, harsh and unloving. To think we can say whatever we want because it is true is likely a serious character flaw. This is why “speaking the truth in love” is an important filter. I think that means we are to assess how our words will be heard. The tone with which we say our words needs attention. Sometimes to say “The Bible says …” can be totally appropriate, but it can also be, like Bildad’s words, inappropriate in its time and space.
I do not speak as a perfect person. If someone can tame the tongue then perfect is what they are. I do not pretend to have entered that phase. I have at times committed my own errors by impulsive comments while trying to be witty or cleaver. That is not to say that engaging laughter is a negative, and there are appropriate for those words.
My prayer today is for balance in assessing our words. We must not ignore truth, but we must know how our words are heard. Saying the hard things will be necessary at times, but may God give us an understanding of the situations we are currently facing that our words might lead to healing and wholeness for all.
Your co-worker, Dennis