Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sins of Speech OR Otherwise I'd Brag

Sins of speech come in many forms: gossip, slander, rumors, abuse, cursing, and deceit. Other ways of erring with the tongue often go unaddressed-- sarcasm, criticism, pessimism, teasing, and taunting.

The book of Proverbs takes pains to expose sins of speech. No less than forty references prohibit deceit or encourage honesty. For a sampling, see:  

Proverbs 6:16-19; 8:6-9, 12-14; 10:6, 14, 18-21, 31-32; 11:11-13; 12:6, 13-14, 18, 25; 13:2-3, 5, 16; 14:3, 5, 25; 15:1-2, 4, 7, 23, 28; 16:10, 13, 24; 17:4, 7, 20, 27-28; 189:4, 6-8, 13, 20-21; 19:1, 5, 9; 20:18-19, 25; 21:23; 22:11; 23:15-16; 24:7-9, 26; 25:10-11, 14, 24; 26:4, 28; 27:14; 29:5; 30:5-6, 10, 14; 31:26

In a culture predating digital media and written contracts, honest speech was central to ancient Israel. Her word served as her guarantee. A broken word upset relationships--familial, business, and social.

In our brave new world, we would do wisely to heed the Bible's speech ethic (Shut up! Speak slowly! Say something nice!). It's too easy not to filter speech from behind a screen; anyone sound STRONG in CAPS LOCKS. It's too easy to manipulate our posts so our online persona is no more than an avatar; anyone can sound spiritual when requesting prayer on Facebook. We  must be aware of the most subtle and widespread word-sins: impression management.

John Ortberg describes this in his book, The Life You've Always Wanted (p. 169):
If we take notice, we will see that a vast amount of what we say generally includes a great deal of impression management. For instance, if we tell someone about a television program, we may preface our report with a disclaimer: “I don’t watch much TV, but the other night…”
This is merely an exercise in impression management. We do it because if  we don’t, the listener might think we just sit around eating bon bons and watching sitcoms.

If we being to listen for these kinds of comments, we will discover that attempting to control the way others think of us is one of the primary uses we put words to in contemporary society. Human conversation is largely an endless attempt to convince others that we are more assertive or clever or gentle or successful than they might think if we did not carefully educate them.

My words aim to impress more often than I'd like to admit. It motivates a fair share of my blogging, tweeting, teaching and preaching. This, I suppose, is why few should teach (James 3:1). My judgement is more severe. I must give an account for my words--a tool I take pride in wielding--otherwise I'd brag.

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