slip of the tongue?

Is it just me, or is the use of language becoming more slippery and less honest? Maybe it’s rose-tinted nostalgia glasses but It seems to me that it was not so long ago that people spoke more plainly and honestly. Let me give you some examples of what I mean:

There’s a word that seems to have crept into regular use by politicians. It is used to try to deflect allegations or inferences of lying or getting something wrong: “I misspoke.” It’s as if the words accidentally tumbled out of their mouth without them being in control of them.

On other occasions when someone being interviewed does not want to answer a question they answer a different one they prefer, despite any attempts by the interviewer to get them to answer their question (perhaps best exemplified by when Jeremy Paxman asked the same question 12 times to an intractable Michael Howard in 1997).

Newspaper articles, blogs and social media posts put their own editorial bias on events and report them either favourably or unfavourably depending on that bias (look at how different newspapers referred to the Brexit campaigns if you doubt me).

The recent debate between the US Presidential Candidates was, at times, a shouting match where each candidate spoke over the other one to make their point and refused to listen.

Of course Christians would never be like that. Would we? Really? Not in church meetings (misvote?), leadership team meetings (misserve?), sermons (mispreach?), talking about someone with another person (misshare?), emails (mistype?), a social media platform (mispost?)…

Jesus had some very tough things to say about what we say and how we say it, recorded in Matthew 12: “33 ‘Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.’”

James takes this theme even further in his open letter – James 3:1-12. Here are the last 3 verses: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig-tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

Words can be weapons of mass distraction and mass destruction and they can be as healing as medicine and surgery and as affirming as a hug. The clear message from Jesus and James is that what we say reveals what’s going on under the surface. We need to show integrity in how we speak (written or verbal). Integrity means: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles,” and “the state of being whole and undivided.” Hmmmm.

Let’s pray Psalm 19:14 – “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

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