The Retaliating Tongue (#24)

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing…” 1 Peter 3:8-9

Gosh, it is so hard to not fight back when someone says something unkind, unfair, or nasty about you!  We have an overwhelming desire to rise up and strike back!  We are looking for justice when we have been wronged – and it feels good to spit something back out at our offender.  But it isn’t good.

Of course, Jesus is our ultimate example of how to respond to suffering at the hands of others.

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23

I think the trick must be to trust God to take care of things, more than yourself.  Satan surely wants to take advantage of you and make you think that not striking back means you are weak… but that’s a lie.

Our book mentions that learning to NOT retaliate requires:

  1. Humility,
  2. A desire to understand the other person’s behavior,
  3. A commitment to obey and glorify God, and
  4. Trusting that God will bring forth justice in His own time (I added that one….)

Joseph is also a good role model for not retaliating – remember how worried his brothers were when they came to see him in Egypt?  He had every reason to torment them and have them put to death… but he says, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don’t be afraid.” Genesis 50:19-21

It’s really very difficult to not repay evil with evil… but we must learn some self-control in this area.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:17-19

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue, a Bible study by Deborah Pegues

The Complaining Tongue (#23)

“Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Philippians 2:14

Now that’s a clear command!  I understand it, I just cannot DO it….  Last week I was a “glass half empty” kind of person.  That’s odd for me, usually I am overly optimistic about most things.

One sure thing about complaining – you can always find more to complain about!  You could also argue that complaining is contagious… surround yourself with women who complain and in due time you will become like them.

I did a word study on complaining once – it was very convicting.  I started around Exodus 16 and followed the children of Israel after they left Egypt.  I marked the word “grumble” (NASB) or “complain” (NIV) or “murmur” (KJV) every time it appeared.  Gees, they complained a lot – and God was not amused.  Then move along to Numbers 11 -14 and they were still complaining… And God got angry and the fire of the Lord consumed the edges of the camp.  Then Miriam complained and started a rebellion and God gave her leprosy.  Next the spies brought back a bad report about the promised land and Israel grumbled again and God was ready to kill the whole lot and pick a new people group, until Moses intervened.  Slow learners, they complained again in Numbers 16 and God killed 15,000 of them with a plague during Korah’s rebellion.  And in Numbers 21 the survivors were still grumbling and God sent poisonous snakes among the people.

Get the picture? Even God tires of constant complaining.

“We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.  These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” 1 Corinthians 10:9-11

I liked the quote in our book, “To murmur is likewise wicked for it takes God’s promises in vain.”  So when we complain, we are saying that we are tired of waiting for God, or that He has failed us in some way or another.  That’s serious business.

What do you complain about the most?  Can you think of one or two things?

There are basically two kinds of complaints – Useful and Useless.

The Useful category includes situations that are within your circle of influence.  That is, you can impact them directly or have access to someone who can.  You can DO something to change the situation.  Use your wisdom and diplomacy to see if you can change the situation.  Sometimes I say to my daughter – Would you like me to try to fix that, or are you just venting?

The Useless category includes situations that are simply time-wasters.  You cannot do anything about the weather, traffic, long lines, and most of life’s other annoying realities.  Your best bet is going to be to manage your life and time in such a way as to minimize the impact.  Change what you can – and resolve to not complain about the rest!

We can train our minds to focus on the good in life – the list of things we can be grateful for is always a lot longer than our complaint list, when we sit down and think about it.  We need to TRAIN our MINDS to follow Paul’s advice:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue, a Bible study by Deborah Pegues

Honestly… I just wanna complain.

So I was supposed to write about The Complaining Tongue this morning… but I didn’t.

I couldn’t…  ’cause I really just wanted to whine and I was feeling grumpy.

So I didn’t feel like inspiring anyone else to greatness.

And certainly not greatness that I myself wasn’t even coming a little, teeny bit close to achieving.

So rather than be hypocritical, I just laid on the couch and wallowed in grumpiness.

And then went to lunch with friends.

And celebrated with women who had a child that actually graduated from high school last night.  YEA.

And fussed with women who are planning weddings, which really is not fun AT ALL.

Those who’d had a tough day were allowed to vent some…  That felt good.

Being with friends is good.

Feeling encouraged is good.

Feeling loved and not alone is good.

And sometimes we’re just grumpy.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be insired to greatness – to stop complaining – to not start all my sentences with AND.

But today I am just glad for friends.

The Cursing Tongue (#22)

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:9-10

Darn those little words that sneak out from time to time!

Why do we let a curse word (or two or three) fly from time to time?

Perhaps we lack an adequate vocabulary – so we use BIG words for added impact?

More likely, we resort to profanity when we are absolutely, impossibly frustrated with a situation.  Steam blowing out of the ears frustrated.  Arrrrgggghhhh.  Except with not-so-nice words.

Have you developed an ungodly pattern of expressing your displeasure or frustration with a situation?

It’s a reaction – something we say without thinking.  Of course.  If we were thinking we wouldn’t have said those words… since we know that Christians are not supposed to use curse words.

Credit – Adsit Adventures

And I don’t always say it – but sometimes I am thinking it.  Or whispering to myself.

So ugly words are still there, silent in my heart.

My reaction came from somewhere.  A habit.  A pattern.  Of the heart.

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

Which means my heart needs cleaning again, dear God.

Oh Jesus, purify my heart and my mind.  Help me to find a better way – or some other words – to express my frustration.

Help my words to bring You honor…

And to be something my 8-year-old can repeat.

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out-of-place, but rather thanksgiving.” Ephesians 5:3-4

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue, a Bible study by Deborah Pegues

The Self-Absorbed Tongue (#21)

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

Haman is our Biblical character example of someone completely preoccupied with themselves.  Remember Haman?  He was the Persian government official in the book of Esther who plotted and schemed and was eventually hung on the gallows he himself had built.  If you read through Esther you will see that “Haman boasted to [his friends and wife] about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials.” Esther 5:11

Throughout his whole life story, we never see him express an interest in anyone else.  He is completely preoccupied with himself.  (He also has some serious pride and boasting issues, but we addressed that on Day 7!)

I don’t think Haman would have been a good lunch date – he would have just talked on and on and on about himself.  Tedious. Boring.

Self-absorption is about wanting to be the center of attention.  It’s also a sign of some deep-seated heart issues – selfishness, insecurity, and wanting the approval of others.

Self-absorbed people present a relational challenge – others realize that their interaction with you is one-sided, there is no mutual sharing of needs or ideas.  As our author said, “Trying to have a close relationship with a self-absorbed person is like trying to hug a porcupine.”

Are most of your conversations with others centered on you and your issues?

“Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves… having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.” 2 Timothy 3:1,5

Let’s make a conscious effort to become “others-absorbed”.

Pray that God to make you genuinely interested in other people.

When you walk away from a conversation with someone – ask yourself what percentage of the discussion was about you versus being about the other person.  We used to make a game of it during dinners at our home… Could we spend most of the night learning about the other couple?  Could we not get drawn into talking endlessly about ourselves?

My husband used to say that it was the mark of a mature pastor or a good friend – he didn’t need to talk about himself all the time.  Despite whatever accomplishments he may have, he never needed to find a reason to tell you about them.

Being genuinely interested in others is a sign of spiritual growth.  We are inherently selfish and self-absorbed and it takes work to overcome it.

Pray that God would show you how much you talk about yourself – and give you a desire to hear more about others.

Give people your full attention when they are talking.  Focus on them.

“Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue, a Bible study by Deborah Pegues

The Judgmental Tongue (#20)

I’m gonna get myself in trouble today.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged.” Matthew 7:1-2

Judgmental people engage in a critical, fault-finding assessment of another person’s behavior.  If someone’s behavior does not reflect a choice or a decision we would have made, we judge it as wrong.  Judgmental people tend to be dogmatic in stating their views.  They act as if their opinion is the final authority.  They evaluate people’s behavior and place a permanent label on them.  They are – in a word – highly opinionated.

I personally think that evangelical Christians are some of the most judgmental, opinionated people I know.  There I said it.

Now, every day we make practical judgments regarding what we think is right or wrong and what is best for our personal lives.

But we become judgmental when we conclude that other people are wrong, unspiritual, or inferior in some manner because they do not embrace the judgments we would make for ourselves.

We sit up on our moral high horse and declare that everybody else is doing it wrong.  What is up with that?!  Who made you God?

““Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5

All I have to do is read through my Facebook feed and I can tell you what the HOT topics – with regard to Christians passing judgment – are right now…  Republican or Democratic politicians.  Gay people and marriage issues.  Obese people.  Homeschooling vs. public school.  Dressing modestly, esp. regarding swimwear.  And what kind of food you’re eating (ironic, we’ve come full circle back to new testament issues on that one).

Do you know what the HOT topics were fifty years ago?  Playing cards.  Going to the movies.  Drinking.  Dancing.  Women wearing pants.

Now, I think you SHOULD make decisions, and form your opinions based on what you believe is scripturally correct.  And you should live by those convictions.

But how about giving other people some space to have their own opinion?!  Especially if scripture doesn’t forbid it?

Someone will say – but we are supposed to judge, right?  Well yes, in 1 Corinthians 5:9-12 Paul says that we as a Christian body are called to judge those inside the church who are clearly guilty of wickedness – listed in the passage as immorality, greed, idolatry, drunkenness, and liars/cheats.  In other words, they are clearly breaking a law set out in scripture.  And there are clear instructions for how the church community should approach such an individual – and it involves love, kindness, and restoration if possible.

Can we relax about the gray areas, please?

Let’s work on getting the planks out of our own eyes.

And now, since my kids are in public school, I’m going out for a glass of wine with my Obama-loving friends.  In my two piece swimsuit.  So there.

Relax.  I’m kidding.


The Rude Tongue (#19)

“Love is patient and kind.  Love is not… rude.  Love does not demand its own way.” I Corinthians 13:4-5

Rudeness – showing a lack of courtesy to others, lacking manners, unkind.

Remember the Golden Rule?

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

Others?!  We don’t even have the time to think about others!  We are totally absorbed with our own agendas!  Why are we in such a hurry that we have to run over everyone?

Know that when you are rude, you have made a very selfish and ungodly decision that your needs or concerns are more important than everyone else’s.  Rudeness stems from a self-absorbed heart and the blatant disregard of the rights of others.

To whom (individual or group) are you most likely to be rude or unkind?  Why?

Think about that for a minute…..  I came up with (1) other drivers, (2) people who are on their cell phones, and (3) my own family members and especially my husband.  Who did you come up with?

Here are some examples of rude behavior – Are you willing to admit to any of these?

  • Cell phone use – while talking to others, at the table, in the checkout line, while trying to multitask
  • Not giving someone who is speaking your full attention (Guilty!  esp. with my kids!)
  • Making fun of someone’s appearance, clothing, or other “shortcoming”
  • Cutting in line (whatever ridiculous excuse you have)
  • Using foul language in public
  • Piling your plate high with food at a party when others have not eaten yet
  • Failing to say “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me”
  • Not greeting people because you are in a hurry
  • Changing the subject while someone else is talking
  • Monopolizing the conversation
  • Leaving a mess for others to clean up
  • Any others come to mind?

How about this?  A few years ago my husband and I were reading Love and Respect by Dr. Eggerichs.  I really do respect my husband, but apparently my behavior does not always communicate that respect very well.

So I followed the instructions in the homework and asked him, “What one thing do I do that communicates disrespect to you?”

His answer – You interrupt me all the time.

Oh.  Yea.  I do.  He’s right.

So I have been working for years to let him finish his own sentences…  To not presume I already know what he is going to say…  To not cut him off suddenly…  And also not be on my phone or the computer when he is talking to me.

Kindness.  Respect.  Manners.  Common courtesy.

Notice the focus on how we treat other people.  God’s people are to be patient, considerate, and kind – thoughtful of others.

There is never a justification for being rude.

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment… Honor one another above yourselves. ” Romans 12:3, 10

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue, a Bible study by Deborah Pegues

*cartoon by Pirero 10/25/11 circulating on Facebook