Shut Up Fool!

“Dad, Micah said the ‘F’ word and the ‘B’ word!” yelled my daughter from the top of the stairs.

Emotion instantaneously consumed my very being. I didn’t even know my 6-year-old son knew the “F” word. It was time to take the bench with righteous indignation—to judge and convict my son for all his misdeeds.

“MICAH, GET YOUR BUTT DOWN HERE!”

“It’s just ‘Fart’ and ‘Butt’ Shawn!” exclaimed Francie from the bedroom.

Like the mother who told her child all about the birds and the bees when he asked where he came from, only to find out he was wondering what city he had just moved from, this situation was also proof positive that explanation is always necessary before assumption, expansion, and extraction.

I later discovered that the “Sh” word was “Shut-up!”

“Shut-up” is also considered a swear word in my household…except for me of course. Truthfully, “shut-up” happens to have been—and continues to be—a Word of correction and character formation from God as he molds me into a disciple of Jesus. Growing up, I was a gossip…a blabbermouth. No one trusted me with juicy morsels, because I would just chew them up and spit ‘em back out. Ask my friends Chad and Brian…they’ll confirm that no one could trust a secret with Shawn Vander Lugt. Recently, I got into trouble again, spouting my mouth (or my fingers in our tech-savvy world). And like Job, God called me out. And like Job, I answered: “I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m ready to shut up and listen” (Job 40:4-5).

The third commandment reads:

 You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

—Exodus 20:7

On the surface, this seems rather simple. Just abstain from misusing names like Jesus, Christ, God, Lord, Yahweh, Jehovah, etc, and you’ll be fine. Right?

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:34-37).

But wasn’t Jesus talking about making oaths…swearing? Prior to Jesus’ sermon, making an oath to God was acceptable, however, dangerous. God’s name is holy and swearing an oath to God’s holy name holds you accountable to that oath. If you break the oath, you are using God’s name in vain and thereby break the third commandment. Jesus is saying that heaven, earth, Jerusalem…any of God’s creation is an offshoot of God’s holiness and thereby just as much a representation of his name. Since we are created in the image of God, every word that comes out of our mouth is an ambassador—a representative—of God.

 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

—Psalm 19:14

After Jesus spoke on the principle of marriage and the dangers that surround divorce, his disciples objected saying, “If those are the terms of marriage, we’re stuck. Why get married?” (Matthew 10:9).

I LOVE the disciples. They speak the truth SO bluntly. The same is true, I believe, regarding speech: “If those are the terms of speech, we’re stuck. Why even speak?”

“Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”

—Proverbs 10:19

“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

—Proverbs 17:27-28

“Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.”

—Proverbs 13:3

If I’ve learned anything over this past week, I’ve learned that when I open my mouth and insert my foot or spew vomit from my fingertips, I dishonor God and misuse his name…even if I don’t specifically say “Jesus,” “Lord,” or “God.” The tongue is more destructive than any other part of my body, so perhaps I just need to shut up.

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.

—James 3:5-9

Therefore, my challenge for this week is to keep my mouth shut and my ears open…where the only words I speak will be words of encouragement, honor, and praise. And if God holds me accountable for the words of my lips and fingertips, I’ll respond with the words of Leonard Cohen:

“I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”

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