Watch Your Mouth!Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Your mouth is filled with wickedness, and your tongue is full of lies.
When my friend Danny spoke poorly of someone in the presence of his dad, his dad would say quickly and firmly, “Danny, watch your mouth!” The Lord said pretty much the same thing to the children of Israel in Psalm 50.
This psalm reveals God as a heavenly judge. He prepares the courts of justice by summoning “the heavens above and the earth below to witness the judgment of his people” (50:4). Then he calls his “faithful people” before him (50:6). As they arrive, the psalm writer observes: “Then let the heavens proclaim his justice, for God himself will be the judge” (50:6).
At this point, the Lord also assumes the role of the prosecutor, bringing charges against Israel. Their problem is not a failure in religious duty. “I have no complaint about your sacrifices or the burnt offering you constantly offer,” God says (50:8). Rather, God’s people have not lived in their daily lives according to God’s Word. In fact, he says, you “treat my words like trash” (50:17). How do they do this terrible thing? By approving of thieves and adulterers. By speaking evil and telling lies. By slandering even their own kinsfolk. Rather than praising what is good, God’s people honor evil and indulge in it with their own lips.
At this point, God the judge becomes God the prophet. He calls his people to repentance. He urges them to use their words in order to thank him, rather than to scorn him. The Lord promises that if his people will keep his path, then he will reveal his salvation to them (50:22-23).
Like the Israelites, we too can find it convenient to do all the right religious things, while not living out our faith each day. In fact, we often engage in the same behaviors that are judged in Psalm 50. How often, I wonder, do our efforts at self-promotion slip into telling lies? Do we approve of evil because we don’t want to rock the boat? Do we engage in slander and gossip in order to advance our own cause? These things are common on the schoolyard and around the water cooler. Even people who sing praises to God in church on Sunday are tempted to use their words on Monday in a way that dishonors God.
Today, I am challenged to pay closer attention to my words. When I speak of someone who isn’t present, am I complimentary? When I’m speaking to someone, am I building that person up? Am I using my mouth to bless people and therefore to bless the Lord?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: You might want to consider the questions I have just asked of myself. Are you using your words in a way that is loving? Or are you stuck in patterns of negativity? How might you speak today in a way that builds up people and honors the Lord?
PRAYER: O Lord, yes, I need to hear the admonition of Danny’s father: Watch your mouth! As I reflect upon Psalm 50, I’m reminded of times when I use my words to tear down rather than to build up. I think of times I have gossiped, times I have subtly put down someone in order to raise myself higher. Forgive me, Lord!
Help me to use my words in a way that honors you. May I speak the truth in love. May I offer words of encouragement and hope. By your Spirit, help me to refrain from gossip and complaining. Let my words be a blessing to others and also to you.
All praise be to you, God of truth, God of love. Amen.
Devotional Reflections for Holy Week
My blog is featuring a series of devotional reflections for Holy Week, based on a biblical version of the Stations of the Cross. You can find these devotions at my blog: http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts/.