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Words and the Car Wash Gunman

March 18th, 2009

Focus Text: Proverbs 13: 3 (NLT)

3 Those who control their tongue will have a long life;
      opening your mouth can ruin everything.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

We’d be rich by now if we had a dime every time one of these verses in Proverbs dealt with words.  Even the words of ancient wisdom we are reading today give evidence to the longevity and effectiveness of the right words spoken or written at the right time.  Some three-thousand years after the fact, Solomon and other writers of wisdom are still speaking loud and clear into our personal lives, as well as into our culture.

As much as the power of the right words can influence the world for good, there is also an abundance of warnings given to us about choosing the wrong words at the wrong times.  Such is this passage: “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.”  Boy, you can say that again!

I can’t even begin to count the number of times that the opening of my mouth has “ruined everything.” When it has happened, it has almost always been in a moment of intensity . . . a moment of emotion . . . a moment of weakness.  Sickness or fatigue robbing me of rest and sleep, I’ve been known to lose the kind of self-control I normally have over my mouth . . . not usually towards the public at large, but more so towards my wife.  

In that moment of intensity, a certain string of words creeps into the chamber of my brain and begs me to pull the trigger of my tongue.  It’s not how I normally feel and is probably not at all my accurate opinion, but the moment seems to demand a harsh response.  It’s like the regular tendencies to guard the one I love at all costs are temporarily suspended and I subconsciously realize the potential I have to release all the frustrations of my life (most of which have nothing to do with her) in her direction.  

Friendly fire of the family.  And you know what?  Scripture is accurate.  It ruins everything.  It’s like the moment the words escape from my lip, something deep down inside panics and reaches out in vain to get them back in . . . come back words!  Nope, it’s too late.  All that can be done now is the process of healing what I’ve injured; rebuilding what I’ve torn down.

All avoidable with the absorption of this truth: just don’t open your mouth.

I end this thread with another short story of which I obtained permission to use.  A young man in our youth ministry was recently held up at a local car wash by a would-be-assailant.  The man indicated that he had a gun in his pocket and demanded all of my student’s money.  As my friend reached inside his vehicle to get his wallet, he was suddenly overcome with boldness.  He whipped around and simply told the man that he wasn’t going to give him his money.  The gunman took a swing at him and after a physical scuffle, fled the scene.

Upon hearing the story, I chided the student for not shutting his mouth and giving the man his money.  We joke about it now and I do admire his courage, but in reality, the wrong words in that situation could have been absolutely deadly.  I thank God that the situation worked out as it did.

Any situation that you or I can actually do anything about is alway in the present or future . . . never in the past.  Therefore, the onus should be upon those of us who seek wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep our lips tightly shut.  We are preparing now for tomorrow’s moment of intensity.  Today’s wisdom is tomorrow’s salvation.

Our sanity, our marriages, as well as our very lives, may be depending on it.


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