What do you think maybe the most disobeyed commandment in the Bible? Automatically your mind is probably frantically trying to remember the big 10 from Exodus 20 and whilst this is applaudable we need to remember that these aren’t the only commandments in the Bible.
Studying for our upcoming sermon series in the book of Proverbs I’ve been thinking about how Solomon has been instructing his children in the skill of listening and speaking. There is chapter 12 he says:
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
with this Solomon is arguing with the popular meme of today that says “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,”. Solomon says “that’s not true, words do hurt. Words can become weapons”. We often use our words to express anger, irritation, disappointment, stress or whatever negative emotion we may feel needs to be vented at the time … usually, and most tragically, those who are closest to us often feel the thrust of the sword in the most painful way.
It’s been said that the lowest form of wit is sarcasm but did you know that the root of our word sarcasm comes from the idea of cutting flesh. Sarcasm isn’t comedy if it’s directed towards someone.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together wrote of the need to practice:
“the ministry of holding one’s tongue”: “Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be expressed in words…. It must be a decisive rule of every Christian fellowship that each individual is prohibited from saying much that occurs to him.”
So Solomon warns his children about using words that destroy and instead gives them an alternative by saying that the “tongue of the wise brings healing”. Wise people think before they speak. This helps them to decide which words to use. This helps them select words that bring healing rather than injury. Again Solomon says:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
This is what James builds much of his instructions to the church around. He says:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Did you notice those three commands? Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. Maybe these are the most frequently disobeyed commands in the whole Bible. What do you think?