USELESS CHATTER . . . Who listens?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Reference: Ephesians 4:29 )

The writer of Ephesians lists several things that new and accountable Christians should do, “Rules for the New Life” the NRSV calls them. The instructions on “unwholesome talk” is one of several instructions the writer of Ephesians gives. Peter Riedeman builds on this particular exhortation when he writes, “To love God with my whole soul, Matt. 22:37, means to watch all the words I speak so that they serve for God’s praise and the edification and betterment of my neighbor, as Paul teaches, Eph. 4:29. One should speak words that are gracious to listen to, necessary, and beneficial for the body of Christ, 1 Cor. 14:5, 12; words that accord with faith and serve to confess and testify to the Son of God, 1 Pet. 4:10ff., . . . For all speech that comes from faith brings betterment and merits God’s spirit and praise. But if I consider my words and find neither God’s praise nor the betterment of my neighbor, I should stop, as James teaches, keep my tongue in control and remain silent, lest my words grieve God’s Holy Spirit, James 1:26”

We have, beloved, in the past days focused on speaking wise and meaningful words, but it is also true that we should listen to only wise and meaningful words. That does not mean we are at fault if “useless chatter” or “unwholesome talk” comes to our ears; but when we know someone’s talking etc is useless or unwholesome, we should not feel obligated to listen. (That is how I feel about a lot of “political” talk.) I do not feel I would be misconstruing the writer of Ephesians teachings if I suggested he would also say “don’t listen to unwholesome talk. Listen to only what is helpful for you and others according to your needs and to all humanity’s benefit.” Selah!

USELESS CHATTER . . . . In teachable moments

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Reference: Matthew 12:34-37 )

If anyone could be right accused of “useless chatter” that actually springs up from ungodly intent, it is the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Jewish leaders that Jesus speaks against in the gospels. A very specific group, beloved, and make note it is only the individuals that make up this targeted group that stand unquestionably accused.

This chapter of Matthew is filled with Jesus going about his preaching, teaching, and healing – and being plagued by the muttering and accusations of the Pharisees. Jesus reprimands them and scolds them several times. I don’t think they paid much attention. It is though a long standing traditions to teach and exhort about living a proper and authentic Christian life. The prophets did it, Jesus did it, the disciples did it and the historic Anabaptists did it. Balthasar Hubmaier wrote,

“Brother [and Sister]! It stands written that everyone must give an account on the judgment day for every vain word that they have spoken, Matt. 12:36. Now dear brother, you made a baptismal vow to Christ Jesus our Lord. You committed yourself to him in such way, and publicly pledged it before the church, that you would henceforth desire to direct and rule your life according to his Holy Word (to which Scripture testifies); and that if you should not do so, you would willingly let yourself be admonished according to the command of Christ. Thereupon you received water baptism and were numbered in the membership of the Christian community.

Now you are using much vain language and frivolous speech, whereby good morals

are seriously destroyed, as is not fitting for a Christian man, 1 Cor. 15:33. I therefore remind you of your baptismal vow, my very dearest brother, that you would call to memory what you promised to God, and I beg you for the sake of God and of the salvation of your soul, henceforth to avoid such frivolous talk and to improve your life. Thereby you are doing the will of God.”

As much as Hubmaier’s caution and warning resonates with what I know about Anabaptism/Mennonite faith, Jesus’ words resonate with me more as a writer. It is not just the spoken word that can be “useless chatter”, beloved. It is the written word as well. Will my written words acquit me? I hope so. Will my written words condemn me? It is my fear. I write in sincere hope and fervent pray that I have written wisely and judiciously.

May you beloved continue to chose your words well, and may they stand as unblemished testimony to your character and soul. Selah!

USELESS CHATTER . . . . Inadvisable for any age

“The lips of talkers will be telling such things as pertain not unto them: but the words of such as have understanding are weighed in the balance. The heart of fools is in their mouth: but the mouth of the wise is in their heart. When the ungodly curseth Satan, he curseth his own soul. A whisperer defileth his own soul, and is hated wheresoever he dwelleth.” (Reference: Sirach 21:25-28 )

The writings of Sirach are written/designed as one line pieces of wisdom, and the verses do not necessarily flow one from another. But there is a common amongst this collection of verses. There are people who speak before they think, measuring and weighing their words to make sure they are true and wise. And then there are the foolish and ungodly who do not think before they speak but babble and gibber about anything.

It is not surprising that exhortations from the historic Anabaptists about useless chatter are given to children. I am glad, beloved, that I did not grow up during those long ago times. Lenaert Plovier wrote to his children, cautioning them to “be not obstinate, or gainsaying, or quarrelsome, but kind. Neither lie; for it is written: “The mouth that lieth slayeth the soul; for a liar has no part in the kingdom of God, nay, his part shall be in the burning lake.” Wisd. 1:11; Revelation 21:8. . . . Be always modes in your words, as becomes children. And when you have come to years of understanding, take a Testament, and see what Christ has left and commanded us there; for all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness . . . 2 Tim. 3:16, 17. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; for man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord. Titus 2:11, 12; Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4.”

That is not to say it is any easier being a child during these modern times. I tried to contrast the prevailing society in the time of the historic Anabaptists with now, and the times then just as now are hard and trying. I grew up I guess in a golden time when children were protected and insulated from much of the harsh realities. I think my children, for the most part, grew up in that sort of milieu too. Maybe it is not so much the year or current events when children grow and mature, but the parents and adults who raise children, protecting them from the evil that is a part of the fallen world. While Plovier’s advice might be wisdom from the heart of a parent, it does not take much into account the babbling, silliness and inexperience of children. There is a lot to be said for letting children BE children for a good amount of time. Would that the times we live in be without worry and care like the world of a child.

May the Lord God who is parent to us all raise us up with gentle and forbearance, excusing our innocent idle chatter until we have become wise, and older. Selah!

USELESS CHATTER . . . Listen to how “useless” it can be

“Therefore he that speaketh unrighteous things cannot be hid: neither shall vengeance, when it punisheth, pass by him. For inquisition shall be made into the counsels of the ungodly: and the sound of his words shall come unto the Lord for the manifestation of his wicked deeds. For the ear of jealousy heareth all things: and the noise of murmurings is not hid. Therefore beware of murmuring, which is unprofitable; and refrain your tongue from backbiting: for there is no word so secret, that shall go for nought: and the mouth that belieth slayeth the soul.” (Reference: Wisdom 1:8-11 )

You cannot hid the the dumb (or worse) things you’ve said. You can’t hid behind untruths. And you cannot hid yourself from being found out. You can’t avoid punishment for the things you’ve said that you should have. God will found out and so will the people around you. In addition, the results of your poor choices of words will be found out too. You will be punished for that.

There may well be people, for their own purposes, who listen and search out ill-chosen words and the consequences of them. These people may also add their punishment; or if you are lucky, just their discipline. Nothing that is said can be hidden; it will come out eventually. And the final consequence is the corruption of your soul.

Now, what were you saying?

May you, beloved, weigh your words carefully so that they may do you proud and glorify the Lord. Selah!

USELESS CHATTER . . . There is too much of it

“Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit. You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue! Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin: He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. “ (Reference: Psalm 52:1-5 )

David, the attributed writer of Psalm, was angry. Someone had told King Saul that he had gone to the High Priest Ahimelech, and that meant King Saul would be coming out after David again. And not only need King Saul seek out David, but he punished Ahimelech and all his family by death. The verses of Psalm 52 were written with the perpetrator of these things in mind.

Historic Anabaptist Dirk Philips wrote, “. . . a perverse mouth will have no luck upon earth, and a spiteful evil person will be expelled and dumped. For we know that the Lord will carry out the affairs of the miserable and the poor rightly. Also the righteous will thank the name of the Lord and the pious remain before his face, Ps. 140:12ff. Again, what is an evil tongue and what can they execute? It is like a fire in genever wood, that at first will blaze up high because of the oil in it, but afterward dies down and goes out, Ps. 120:4. Thus will their slanders also disappear and melt and die with shame in themselves. But the truth will triumph and the righteous will remain as an olive tree in the house of the Lord and rely on his goodness eternally, Ps. 52:5ff.”

We hear often these days groups and individuals speaking against other groups and individuals. My Facebook page, and I am sure yours too, is filled with one person saying something against another. I do not tarry long over these posting, nor do I try to figure out who is telling the truth about who. Neither do I read many editorials or opinion articles. I don’t read or follow much on the news either. I have no desire to bring anyone to task for untruths or evil lies they might say. I don’t even set out to call down God’s wrath on them.

God knows what is true and what is not true. The Divine does not need me to sort it out, nor to be the agent of vengeance. It is enough for me, beloved, to know that the words I speak are true and uplifting. That is what I see as my task. To encourage you, beloved, to speak the truth in love and compassion, modeling God’s mercy and forgiveness. We have enough people telling us what is wrong in this life and in this world. And not enough people encouraging love, understanding and forbearance. May you beloved by a voice of gentleness in an unkind world. Selah!