“It must be a decisive rule of every Christian fellowship that each individual is prohibited from saying much that occurs to him.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together
In Michele’s post What is Sacrifice?? she mentioned that people give up all kinds of things as a sacrifice to God during Lent. We can give up anything that prevents us from directing our life toward God. So here’s an idea: consider fasting from careless or uncaring talk. The book of James says,
“If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is in vain.” James 1:26
In other words, failing to control our tongue is very important. It can make our other sacrifices worthless. We all know that words can hurt, yet we still say damaging things and then try to excuse them: “I was only telling the truth,” “I just didn’t think,” or “he (or she) shouldn’t be so sensitive.” Keep in mind that gossip and foolish talk are included in Biblical lists of sinful behavior (2 Corinthians 12:20, Ephesians 5:4) right along with things we consider much worse. We can’t excuse sins of the tongue, any more than we can excuse theft or murder.
In point of fact, we are not just called to abstain from cruel words, but to speak positively as often as possible. In a recent sermon on the Ten Commandments, our pastor directed us to Martin Luther’s explanation of false witness in the Small Catechism:
“We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander or defame our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.
Notice this explanation goes beyond saying, “if you can’t say something good, be quiet.” It goes further than telling us not to lie about others. It says we should speak kindly about everyone and truly believe the best of them. We could boil it down to these words from Ephesians:
“Do not let unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
So during the Lenten season, let’s not just give up foolish speech, let’s replace those words with others that encourage. Say, “thank you,” “I care about you,” I appreciate your hard work,” or “how may I help?” There are many opportunities to affirm someone every day.