The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45 (ESV)
Many, many (did I say many?) moons ago, at 3:00 on a Saturday night / Sunday morning, I was at a small southern Indiana hospital with a man who was experiencing what I would call a mild cardiac event – not quite a heart attack, maybe anxiety.
We were waiting in a quiet exam room when a cacophony of inebriated revelry erupted from next door. Snorts and laughter were punctuated with the occasional “sshhhhh… shut up dude, we’re at the %^&% hospital”, which only provoked more snorts and laughter.
We heard the curtain open and the doctor ask, “Well, what happened here?” The patient – chortling just as loud as his buddies – explained how he and his friends had been enjoying a few brews and cleaning their shotguns and, well… doggonit one of them was still loaded and he shot himself in the foot.
Ok… at this point some of you may be thinking, “Haven’t I heard this before?” I would be tempted to question the veracity of my story had I not been there myself. I swear to you, this is not a set up for a bad redneck joke. Some things you just can’t make up.
I wasn’t there to hear how the story ended. But I’m pretty sure that, once the effects of the alcohol gave way to the pain of the gunshot wounds, the patient probably wasn’t laughing anymore.
I say that with a fair amount of certainty because, while I have never literally shot myself in the foot (or anywhere else for that matter), my big mouth has certainly shot far more metaphoric bullets into my feet than I care to think. My size twelves should be riddled with more holes than a slab of Swiss cheese.
(Fun fact side note: did you know that one of the three bacteria used to make Swiss cheese is Streptococcus thermophilus? Go amaze your family, friends and co-workers with your new found informations sur le fromage. You are welcome.)
Sometimes I think I need a license and a one-month cooling off period before I open my big yap. Either out of anger, or stress, or ego, or just plain desire to make people laugh, I’ve said things that, in a non-thinking split second, seemed right. When one is “drunk” with emotion of any kind, the ability to react appropriately is usually impaired. Our judgment is clouded by the emotion of the moment.
We can try to control our mouths, but that is only a treatment for the symptom. The disease isn’t one of the mouth, but of the heart. If we want to be healed of Foot-in-Mouth Disease, we have to go to the root of the problem and fix it.
We are all infected with the same malady: sin. Sin causes us to say and do some pretty awful stuff.
And sin has only one cure.
Now… I’m going to stop briefly at this point because I’m fairly certain that most, if not all of you, know what I’m about to say. It’s very easy to slip into Christianese and give an answer that, despite it’s solid and absolute truth, sounds trite and simple. There is nothing trite about the answer. Simple, yes. Simple in the sense that there are very few steps to implementing the treatment we need. The cure isn’t complicated.
But it isn’t necessarily easy either.
Never confuse “simple” with “easy”. The two are not synonymous.
The answer to our sin problem, the cure to our shared disease is simply this: Jesus.
I believe very firmly that every problem, every issue, every situation, has it’s resolution in Matthew 6:33: Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things – all we need in this life – will be provided.
This verse applies to everything in life, including how to respond to every situation, in any given moment. This includes what we say – if we should say anything at all (truth be told, silence is probably the best response in the heat of the moment). It requires us to be aware of God always (which is why Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17], so we keep our minds and hearts stayed on the Lord). Remember, the Holy Spirit indwells believers. He is with us always.
When faced with a situation we feel requires a definite response, we should follow two simple steps: shut up and listen. Again, simple? Yes. Easy? That’s a whole other story. We often feel the need – the urge – to interject our two cents worth. And, when we consider the damage inflicted by our thoughtless comments, we quickly discover that “two cents” is an extreme overvaluing of the worth of our pithy come backs.
So, how do we stop the cycle of opening our mouths and shooting ourselves in the foot?
1. Stay focused on God. Ask what Jesus would do or say if He were in our shoes.
2. Stay in God’s Word. Read it. Study it. Write notes in your Bible or journal. Memorize it. Revel in it.
3. Stay in prayer. Stay connected. Prayer is direct communication with the Creator of the Universe. He knows each of us far more intimately than we know yourselves. Which means He knows better than we do how we should respond.
4. Stay silent. Unless/until you find the gracious response of Jesus, say nothing.
I sometimes think back to that night in the ER and wonder if the young man with the self inflicted foot wound ever laughs about that night. I hope not. I hope he was able to learn what he needed to from the events of that night and can look ahead with the joy and renewal of Jesus Christ.
I hope that for all of us big mouths as well.