There are many certainties in life and here are two. First, words are powerful. James compares them to fire (James 3:5) and Jesus says that they are excellent indicators of one’s heart (Mark 7:14-23). Second, the power of words combined with the power of sin in our hearts means that we will often misspeak. Some of our verbal mistakes are harmless and humorous while others reveal a severe problem of the heart. Below are seven examples from culture, family and the church.
7. “I’m a Yankee fan”
Translation: “I only like teams with a history of winning.”
If you, your dad or son played for the Yankees or if you actually live somewhere in or around New York, go play Angry Birds until we move on to the next point. You’re legit and this doesn’t concern you.
This one is for they guy that lives 800 miles away from New York and has no ties to the team whatsoever other than the fact that he lets ESPN cram them down his throat every morning during Sportscenter. This is for the guy that really didn’t have a problem with the Yankees getting knocked out of the playoffs last week by a team with a much smaller payroll because he knew that his favorite NFL team and college football team would pick him up later this year. This guy’s only problem is worrying about whether or not there will be an NBA season so he can cheer for his favorite pro basketball team. If not, there’s always college basketball and the North Carolina Tarheels.
Remedy: Spend a season cheering for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
6. “The best team doesn’t always win”
Translation: “There’s no way for me to deny the fact that my team just got curb stomped so I’ll just come up with my own formula to prove that getting beat 45-0 isn’t all that bad.”
The best team does always win. That’s kind of the point of sports. If recruiting classes, fan bases and traditions were all that mattered Clemson would be working on their 24th national title this year. Sadly for them, as good as those things are, they don’t mean a whole lot unless you actually win games. This saying is reserved only for losing teams who don’t want to admit that they were manhandled. There’s a reason why you’ve never seen a coach stand on the podium at midfield after leading his team to a Super Bowl victory and use this phrase.
Remedy: Replace this phrase with its younger, less whiney brother: “We just weren’t the best team that day.” That way you fess up to getting beat but you still get the pleasure of leading people to believe that had this game been played on the following Tuesday, the results would’ve been much different.
5. “I’ll tell you the truth”
Translation: “Everything I’ve said up until this point is a complete lie. But now, I’m shooting you straight and I think that you were meant for this gently used 1988 Ford Escort.”
Remedy: If you use this phrase, stop using it and just tell the truth all the time. If someone uses this phrase on you, run away as fast as you can. Nobody was meant for a gently used 1988 Ford Escort.
4. “One, two, three”
Translation (what comes out of the parent’s mouth): “Dylan, if you don’t quit choking that little girl, I’m gonna keep yelling at you, then give you a few empty threats and then start counting. Now I know you don’t wanna hear mamma count.”
Translation (what the kid hears): “DYLAN, KEEP DISOBEYING ME UNTIL I SAY THE WORD THREE!!!!”
I’m convinced that this is why kids grow up so confused. I can’t prove it but hearing mixed messages like this their whole lives has got to be the reason why guys wear their girlfriend’s jeans and why girls wear their pajamas out in public.
The only thing worse than The One Two Three Method is The One Two Two and a Half Three Repeat Child’s Name Start Back Over At One Method. I’m not sure who invented these methods but they were probably Yankees fans.
Remedy: Kids will never say this but they actually like structure and being shown the consequences of their actions so give it to them. This helps them grow up to be real men and women who know, in the words of Tedd Tripp that delayed obedience is disobedience.
Man 1: “I took my kid to see (insert Elmo on Ice, The Super Bowl etc…).”
Man 2: “What did you think.”
Man 1: “Not gospel-centered enough.”
Don’t get me wrong on this. I’m a big fan of what seems to be a resurgence of the gospel. If my preaching isn’t gospel-centered, I’ve failed. Gospel-centeredness is the goal of every sermon I preach. Small groups and classes at our church have used and benefited from curriculum entitled The Gospel-Centered Life. Being gospel-centered is the way to go.
But the problem comes when we make being gospel-centered the new legalism. We can spend all of our time and energy policing blogs, movies, sermons and songs for a lack of gospel-centeredness that we begin to love that more than, get this, the actual gospel. Jared Wilson gives us wise counsel here. “It is a very real danger to be gospel-centrality-centered rather than gospel-centered, just as it’s a very real danger to talk for miles about Jesus without following him an inch.”
Remedy: Continue to pursue gospel-centeredness. Just don’t flip out if the newest Veggie Tales video doesn’t lay out the creation-fall-redemption model to your liking. Never blame a tomato for not teaching your kids what you’re supposed to be teaching them. I think Thomas Jefferson said that. Look it up and get back to me.
2. “This economy”
Translation: “I enjoyed hording all of my money back in 2006 but now that the economy is in the tank, I’ve finally got something to blame it on.”
It goes a little something like this.
“Well, we’d love to (insert sponsor a child, give more to missions, build an orphanage etc…) but you know how it is with this economy.”
There is no denying the fact that times are tight. But for many in our country, our lifestyles are as much to blame as the economy is for these tight times. It doesn’t get much more funny than to hear a person with two homes and four cars talk about being “poor”. I’ve been to some pretty poor places around the world and one thing I’ve noticed is that poor people rarely tell you how poor they are. Poor talk is a rich man’s game.
Remedy: Philippians 4:10-20
1. “I’m not racist but…”
Translation of “I’m not racist”: “I enjoy Denzel Washington’s films, I don’t belong to the KKK and I really appreciate that young black male that scores all of those touchdowns for my favorite team.”
Translation of “but”: “I’m a racist.”
Imagine the following scenario.
You’re in line at the bank. As you wait in line, a man walks in wearing black military boots, black pants, a black trench coat and a black ski mask. He also happens to be carrying a pretty big gun with a name that you can’t pronounce. After bursting through the doors, he jumps up on the main counter and says, “Everybody listen up! I’m not a bank robber or anything but give me all the money in here.”
Nothing exposes the power of words more than contradictory statements from the same mouth (James 3:9-12).
If you’re constantly (or occasionally for that matter) having to explain away your racist comments, you probably are a racist. I know that kind of an accusation get’s thrown around a lot. I don’t mean it in the “Oh, you cheer for Duke so you must be a racist” or “You just quoted Farrakhan so you’re obviously a racist” sense of the term. I mean it in the all that’s missing is the white sheet sense of the term.
Perhaps I don’t understand. Maybe it’s just the way you were brought up. I don’t have a clue what it was like growing up during the civil rights conflicts. But imagine if 30 years from now a friend introduced you to someone who was an obvious sexual deviant. After voicing your concerns, your friend responds with, “Yeah, I know but it’s just the way he was raised. I mean there was pornography everywhere back then.” Somehow I don’t think that such an argument would be well received.
Remedy: Ask God to forgive you for the sin of not loving him and your neighbor (Mark 12:28-31; 1 John 4:7-21), ask him to take over your heart with his lovingkindness (Psalm 51) and thank him for giving you more grace than you have been willing to give to others (James 2:1-13).