Archive for the ‘tongue’ Category

Hold Your Tongue

Monday, May 8th, 2017
Lord Kenyon

Lord Kenyon

Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult. Proverbs 12:16

Lord Kenyon was a Chief Justice of England who greatly simplified the law. King George III had a high opinion of him and Kenyon also held the king in warm regard. However, Kenyon was prone to lose his temper and often did so in court. King George and others considered this a grave fault in one who held so high a position. During one of the king’s receptions, shortly after Kenyon had one of his outrageous explosions in the Court of King’s Bench, the king said to him: “My Lord Chief Justice, I hear that you have lost your temper, and from my great regard for you, I am very glad to hear it, for I hope you will find a better one.”

The contrast between Kenyon and Christ could hardly have been more pronounced. Christ responded wisely to attacks on himself and only became angry when people disrespected God or trod on other people under the guise of religion. When appropriate, Christ remained completely silent, as he did at his trial before Pilate, except to speak a few words intended to enlighten the governor regarding eternal truth.

16:23 Wise Heart, Wise Tongue

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Proverbs 16:23

Bud Robinson

When Bud Robinson became a Christian he was a stammerer and could not even write his own name. He felt called to preach, telling others of the liberation he had experienced in Christ, and stood up before the rough ranchers he worked with in Texas.

Here was fun! The men gathered around, taunting and mimicking the stutter they anticipated. They fell silent when Bud began to warn them of coming judgment and point them to Christ. His stammer completely disappeared. That this was a supernatural work of the Spirit was evidenced by the fact that as soon as he had finished preaching, his stammer returned.

Aided by Sally, his godly wife, Bud Robinson eventually overcame his stammer, learned to read and write, and went on the become a holiness leader in the Nazarene church and editor of its paper, for which he wrote hundreds of thousands of words. During his life, he won thousands to Christ.

The wisdom of Christ had taught his mouth to speak and given his lips power. It was the same wisdom that Christ demonstrated when he walked the earth: powerful, well-considered, and so persuasive it reaches across the ages to touch other lives like Bud Robinson’s to this day.

15:18 Angry or Calm?

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention. Proverbs 15:18

Quarreling men

Christian astronomer and apologist Hugh Ross tells that following one of his talks, an angry man, who had avoided the lecture itself, began ranting at the start of the question and answer period. The tension in the room rose as this man, who described himself as an atheist, gushed hostility.

By calmly and prayerfully answering with facts, Ross deflected the man’s antagonism and was able to share the gospel.

Christ also deflected antagonism by remaining calm. There were times when his enemies tried to trap him; he answered wisely and then left them speechless, and the argument was at an end, when he posed questions to them that they could not answer.

However, one of the most astonishing incidents did not develop as Christ’s enemies expected. The Jewish Council had sent soldiers to arrest him, but the men returned empty handed. Asked why, they replied simply, “Never man spoke as this man spoke.” Contention was deflected because the Lord had calmly proceeded with the work given him by the Father.

25:11 Witty Retorts

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11

Denarius with the image of Tiberius Caesar.

Denarius with the image of Tiberius Caesar.

If you are like me, you think of the perfect reply long after you need it. Then you kick yourself and groan, “That is what I should have said.”

Some people seem to always have an apt reply on their tongue. Francis Bacon used to study clever retorts in advance so that he might drop them when predictable topics arose.

My own appreciation is reserved for those who deliver their retorts more spontaneously. One slam-dunk that sticks in my mind is that of the sparkling Quaker girl Mary Pryor, who, when pressured to marry a rich old man, was told, “Why, you could eat gold!” She replied, “But I would find it hard to digest,” and married a poor but honest fellow-believer.

One of the wittiest replies of church history was that of Erasmus when Frederick the Wise asked him if Luther was in error. He thought a few moments and answered, “He has erred in two things: He has attacked the pope in his crown and the monks in their bellies.”

Neither of these examples shine like the replies of Jesus. For example, when a broad hint was dropped that he was illigitimate, Jesus did not protest his mother’s innocence, but in his reply pointed his detractors to the more relevant question, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8).

When the Pharisees and Herodians buttered him up (Mark 12) in an attempt to trap him with a question about taxes, he responded, “Why are you trying to trap me? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him, as we also should be. His replies were indeed apples of gold in settings of silver.

10:6 Blessed Head vs. Violent Mouth

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Bishop Stephen Gardiner of Winchester who condemned Taylor.

Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked. —Proverbs 10:6

During the reign of Queen Mary Tudor, many Protestant churchmen were put to death for their faith. Bishops Bonner and Gardiner were her main agents. Gardiner, who had sworn an oath to serve the Reformation, and then switched sides, was especially notorious for his insults, jeers, and sarcasm toward the men he examined. One of these was Rowland Taylor, a pastor of godly character from a village fifty miles from London.

Gardiner greeted the holy man with his usual barrage of disparaging words (violence covering his lips), and soon enough contrived to do real violence, having Taylor condemned to death for views which differed from those of Rome. To make an example of him, the bishop had him burned to death in the town where he had preached.

The sheriff and his men who took Taylor home to die were amazed at the joy with which he approached death, and at the love and reverence his people showed him. Along the route people called blessings on their good pastor, thanking him aloud for kindnesses he had done to them. One old lady knelt beside him as he made his final prayer, and would not be driven away.

Taylor died patiently. In this he was like his Lord and master, Jesus Christ. Blessings cover Christ’s head and always will, especially the blessing of God who said, “This is my beloved Son.” But violence, jeers, mocking and curses covered the mouth of our Lord’s opponents, who wagged their heads at him while he was on the cross, and taunted him with the words, “He saved others, let him save himself.”

10:19 Wordy Sins

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Abraham Lincoln, whose Gettysburg Address is a masterpiece of brevity.

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. Proverbs 10:19.

The more we talk or write, the more likely we are to say something stupid, false, or harmful. Josephus is an example. His lengthy histories, which were written to ingratiate the Romans, reveal him as a schemer, boaster, and a traitor to his own nation. As his biographer Bentwich says, “Hard circumstances compelled him to choose between a noble and an ignoble part, between heroic action and weak submission. He was a mediocre man, and chose the way that was not heroic and glorious. Posterity gained something by his choice; his own reputation was fatally marred by it.”

Short speeches and writings often have power completely out of proportion to their length. Consider Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He spoke so briefly that the professional photographer did not have time to complete the adjustment of his old-fashioned equipment. The other lengthy orations of that historic occasion have not been remembered, but what an inspiration the president’s few words became to the United States!

Jesus also couched almost all of his most memorable teachings in just a few, well-chosen words and images. Such were the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, all of the parables, and most of his answers to questions. Only the Sermon on the Mount, the Olivet Discourse, and his final instructions to his disciples before his crucifixion approach lengthiness. He knew the power of succinctness and showed an absolute mastery of his tongue that we would do well to emulate.

17:27 Few Words, Calm Replies

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Christ before Ciaphas.

He that has knowledge spares his words; and a man of understanding is of a cool spirit.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Radio (based on a true story) has Coach Harold Jones (well-played by Ed Harris) criticized in the barber shop for brefriending Radio, a young man with a disability. Rather than defend himself with many words, he asks, “Is that what you think Radio is? A Distraction?” Setting down his coffee cup he adds in a calm voice, “Think I’m going to do us all a big favor and let you all finish this one on your own.”

Whether or not that was the real character of Jones (he loses his temper with a referee once), he comes across as terse, wise and self-controlled in this scene and several others. It aptly illustrates Solomon’s proverb.

Jesus illustrates it even better. His teachings were terse and memorable. His responses to heckling and to honest questions were brief, well-considered, and to the point. On several occasions (most notably with the woman taken in adultery, and at his trials), the Gospels comment on his silence. In all these things, he showed true knowledge and understanding.

11:13 No Betrayal from Anne

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

Anne Askew and some others at the stake.

Anne Askew and some others at the stake.

A talebearer reveals secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit conceals the matter.

Anne Askew was an outspoken woman early in the English reformation. Her faith brought her into contact with the women of King Henry VIII’s court, including possibly Katherine Parr. Anne was tortured to reveal her contacts but stubbornly refused to betray her associates. Eventually she was burned alive.

So far as we know, Jesus was not tested in this manner. However, he fulfilled the spirit of this proverb, for when arrested, he said, “Let these men go” so that his disciples went free. Not only so, he stood silent before false accusations, refusing to testify against himself until adjured in the name of God.

10:11 Mouth of Peace, Mouth of Violence

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Beau Nash

Beau Nash

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.

Beau Nash was the reigning dandy at Bath in 1739. An adventurer and gamester, he paraded his materialism with gaudy displays of pomp and profligacy. When he learned John Wesley was coming in June, he promised to drag him down. Friends pleaded with Wesley not to risk preaching, but Wesley refused; he must share the word of life.

As a consequence of Nash’s boasts, the crowds were larger than usual, and many among them were the fashionable people and visitors of the town. Wesley preached in his normal style, warning people high and low that all were locked under sin and needed a savior.

Nash appeared and tried to disrupt the meeting. He asked by what authority Wesley preached. Wesley easily answered; he had been ordained by the man who was now Archbishop of Canterbury. Nash then twisted the law to claim the assembly was illegal; Wesley replied that the law referred to seditious gatherings. Nash next charged him with frightening the people, to which Wesley demonstrated that Nash was speaking from hearsay. Finally Nash demanded, “I desire to know what this people comes here for.”

An old woman shouted in reply, “You, Mr. Nash, take care of your body; we take care of our souls; and for the food of our souls we come here.” Nash retired defeated.

Anyone who has read the accounts of Christ knows that, like Nash, the Pharisees did all in their power to impede Him from speaking of true righteousness. There was violence in their speech, and ultimately violence in their deeds.

These examples remind me of something Paul Johnson wrote in Enemies of Society. He said that those who will do violence to the language [i.e.: twist facts and meanings to make a point] will do violence to people if they get the power. It has been the way of Satanic opposition from the beginning, for as Christ reminded us, Satan is a liar and a murderer, and his followers act like him.

We must make every effort to be honest with our facts, use words properly, and tell the whole story, not just the parts that support our position.

15:4 The Tongue Tree

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Fall tree, courtesy of Rich King.

Fall tree, courtesy of Rich King.

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit. Proverbs 15:4.

Trees are marvelous creations. Their designs are pleasing to the eye. They clothe the landscape in restful greens, give shade and provide all sorts of useful products such as lumber, fruit, fuel and nuts. And, as we now know, they reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and pump out healthy oxygen. The Bible mentions special trees which do more. There was, for example, the tree of knowledge of good and evil which brought such woe to our race when violated. There was a tree of life from which Adam and Eve were driven away. In the New Jerusalem there will also be a tree of life, perhaps like a banyan tree, spreading over the river of life. It will bear a different fruit each month and heal the nations.

Solomon compares a wholesome tongue to a tree of life. Jesus had such a tongue. Life-giving wisdom dripped from his lips. One cannot read his words two thousand years later without a thrill. They cut to the core of any pretense and exalt to the skies. They are health-giving like the tree of life in the New Jerusalem.

By contrast, perverseness is the tendency to twist truth into its opposite. A perverse tongue shows a gaping hole in the spirit of its owner. Where Christ’s words defend truth, teach, warn and refresh, the words of a perverse man batter at the spirit with nagging, lying, cursing and destruction. Such a tongue pains its hearers and damns its owner.