What We Do Next

1 Timothy 4:11-16 (NRSV)

These are the things you must insist on and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.


Paul wrote the above words to a young pastor. Let’s read them as instructions to mature Christians.

Yesterday, I wrote a lament and a prayer regarding events that led to mob violence in our nation’s Capitol building Wednesday. How can Christians help restore a nation’s character?

We’re discovering how dangerous it is to ignore character. For too long now, we’ve been willing to say, “Well, that person lacks character, but he promotes something I like, so let’s give him power.” Many of you will think I’m talking about just one person, but I actually could make a list.

Speech and conduct matter; they are external expressions of the character within. They should exhibit high ideals, and we as Christians believe that Jesus Christ expresses the highest ideals, given to us straight from the mind of God. Christ’s standards are so high, in fact, that they are difficult to achieve—we should always be striving toward what is higher.

Our words should reflect love for all people. We will always be broken into little factions, political, theological and otherwise, and the differences sometimes might be sharp enough that we find it difficult to live in each other’s circles. But one of the beautiful aspects of this nation is that it was designed so we can at least share a common commitment to freedom, with harm of others being the one trait we should refuse to accommodate.

As Christians, we need to use God’s word, referencing it, quoting it and letting it guide us. This means we live as true disciples, taking the Bible seriously. Using it regularly sometimes makes the secular folks around us a little uncomfortable, but only where they find themselves in conflict with God’s will.

Let’s be deliberate about living and speaking as Christians. Our baptismal vows are more than a part-time commitment. We take on Christ to be clothed in undeserved holiness. From there, we are called to project God’s purity to a hurting world.

Lord, make us bold for you. Amen.

James: Stung by the Tongue

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

James 3:1-12

We are called today to consider how we speak to others. As James notes, “We all make many mistakes,” and we’re all familiar with what we sometimes call a slip of the lip.

For the preacher, the advantage of these verses lies in their ability to make everyone squirm. The disadvantage is the preacher has reason to squirm, too. The problem of unholy speech is universal.

Our tongues reveal much about where we are in our walk with Christ. Unless we have reached a state of true holiness, our words will reveal our flaws. And yet, James isn’t saying, “Oh, well, nobody’s perfect.” Instead, he’s making it clear we need to develop a Christian way of speaking to each other and to a hurting world.

A lot of what James says about speech is very practical. Earlier, in the first chapter of James, we are advised to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, “for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” In many ways, James simply repeats advice that had been circulating for centuries before his day.

When I worked for a corporation, I had a boss who taught me these principles in regard to email. Thanks to email, texting, Facebook, and such, we can now lash out at someone while typing, making our fingers as dangerous as our tongues.

A short-tempered project manager had used email to attack me for something I had not done. I was furious, of course. My wise boss’s advice: Ignore it for 24 hours. “Write the response if you want,” he said, “but don’t hit ‘send’ until you’ve waited a day and considered it.”

I wrote it, and the next day I read my words again. In a calmer frame of mind, I actually deleted my response rather than hitting “send.” I suppose it was the Christian thing to do.

It also was a lot of fun because the project manager figured out on his own he had made a mistake, and for months I could see he was very nervous every time he was around me.

I wondered what he was thinking: “Did Chuck get the email? Does he know something I don’t? Is he friends with someone higher up the company ladder? WHAT’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN TO ME?”

Okay, maybe I enjoyed that last part in ways that weren’t so Christian.

A lot of this has to do with self-control. Be the calm one. Be the one who speaks softly when others are angry. Control yourself, and you’ll control the situation.

These lessons go beyond day-to-day practicality, however. James raises the issue of how we speak, and other issues of behavior, so that we can look at ourselves critically and grow in our ability to love others as Christ loves us. Our tongues act like litmus strips, telling us if we’re out of balance with Christ.

Biting our tongues does help, but it’s not a long-term solution. Remember, we cannot work our way into salvation. We could gnaw our tongues off trying to achieve holiness through our own strength. As I mentioned on Monday, we begin with faith that Jesus saves us, and works proceed from there.

We do those things that grow our faith. We pray. We study the Bible. We seek to be true disciples of Christ, and not just people who occasionally walk through the church door on a Sunday morning.

As we open ourselves to God, the Holy Spirit takes greater control of our lives. At some point, he finally gets hold of our tongues, and we then have taken great steps toward holiness. Over time, our words even can bring holiness to places where discouragement and despair once ruled.

Tomorrow, we’ll be a bit mystical and talk about double-mindedness. I pray we will begin to see how holiness can work its way into the depths of our souls.

Lord, may our speech today, and then each following day, demonstrate that we walk with you. Amen.