I came across a Scripture about a week ago, and for some reason, it popped back in my head last night…as did a slightly elaborated context for it. I’m not sure that I’d go as far as to call this a “devotion.” Maybe more along the lines of a thought you just gotta hang with me on. This, even though it’s not exactly bursting to come out of me, did distinctly hit me, and I think it’s important enough to share with you all, so here goes…
Proverbs 12:6 “The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush, but the words of the godly save lives.”
Seems simple enough, a proverb about the importance of words. Proverbs is chock-full of stuff about what we say. But really look at it. He says words can be “like a murderous ambush.” That setup sounds familiar (or it did to me, anyway). This is where things really start getting interesting. There’s talk of another ambush in the Bible that was indeed pretty murderous…
Luke 10:30 “Jesus replied with an illustration: ‘A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.'”
OK, so there’s a picture of a murderous ambush. Now let this sink in: our words have that caliber of capability–a verbal equivalent of a physical assault. Our words can attack helpless people…maybe not strip them of their clothes, haha, but definitely of their dignity, self-esteem, etc…repeatedly beat their hearts…and worst of all, leave them abandoned, and half dead–or maybe a better way to put it would be abandoned and only half alive.
10:31 “By chance a Jewish priest came along; but when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.” I’ve always found the progression in this next part ironic. The highest ranking person doesn’t even pause, just looks as he continues on his merry way. What’s the “verbal equivalent” of this? I think it’s when we see people being beaten up verbally and yet we keep our mouths closed and just watch it happen (yes, I am saying “we” here). Or it could be that we see somebody who’s just been decimated as a result of hurtful words, but we don’t feel we have the time or the nerve to encourage and affirm that person. I just get the image of us being like Saul– standing aside, silently holding the coats of the assailants so they can be free to pound away. And of course, we succumb to the tug to join in sometimes, too, just because we know something we could contribute or we feel obligated to stay on topic with the rest of the conversation.
10:32 “A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.” Again, the progression is interesting. Highest ranking doesn’t even stop, but the slightly lower ranked guy stops, walks over, and looks at the guy before he resumes his trip. To me this represents the times when we just don’t want to care all the way. We have a little compassion, but we just don’t want to make that time and energy investment. In BSU Tuesday night, Christy mentioned how often we only care on a polite, surface level. If I had a dime for every time a day I engage in this kind of exchange, I’d have plenty of gas money. Say I’m walking somewhere and see someone I know, also en route somewhere. I say, “Hey Bob, how are you?” Bob says, “I’m good Michelle, how are you?” I say, “Good.” This all takes place within a 5-second window where we’re still in motion toward our respective paths, and we never once stop. We don’t have time. Two questions–1. When are we going to start making time? How long will it take us to truly resolve in our hearts that people matter? I really want to try to make caring a way of life, not just a “when I happen to think about it” thing. I want to see Bob coming, say “Hey Bob,” and stop. And for him to do the same. If I’m that pressed for time, I’d like stop, look Bob in the eye in all seriousness and say, “Hey Bob, we should catch up sometime today, I want to hear how things are going with you.” Oh, that we could learn to value each other like that. 2. When are we going to brave our fears of being honest with people? To me it seems like the implementation of the first thing would naturally bring about the second, but I don’t know. We’ve been trained really well to automatically say, “Good,” or whatever we think people want to hear because we know they don’t have time and/or we know they just don’t care that much and/or we want to ostracize ourselves away into a corner with our burdens. I’m an awful liar, and I have been for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I can get a guilty look on my face like I’m lying when I’m actually telling the truth! But especially the complicated lies that require more than a few words and possible explanations, I stink at. But simple, one or two word things, I can usually pull off. Know one of the lies I can pull off the best? This one. Someone can ask me how I’m doing on what just happens to be an awful day, and I can smile, look that person in the eye, and say “fine” without so much as batting an eye. Believe it or not, many years in the glassbowl setting of being a pastor’s daughter and being greeted like that all the time in church engrained the habit deeper and deeper. (It disheartens me that we feel we can’t even be completely transparent in church, which is supposed to be the “hospital for sinners.” Instead, church turns into a masquerade ball of hurting people wearing saintly masks. I could go on, but that’s another soapbox for another day.) I hate that habit and have tried to consciously correct it, but sometimes it still slips out. If you see somebody half alive, don’t pass by. Take the time to stop. Ok, now it gets good.
10:33-34 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt deep pity. Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.”
I know I’ve chased bunnies for awhile, but remember the core verse? The second part says, “the words of the godly save lives.” Just like words have the potential to be a murderous ambush, they have the potential to save lives! What a fine line we walk with the words we speak! Our God-inspired words of encouragement and care can be that medicine that can help heal every blow received. The priest didn’t even slow down, the temple assistant refused to go all the way, but the Samaritan cared. He stopped. He even got down in the dirt beside this man. What the Samaritan did was the difference between life and death for this Jewish guy. It was that important. Our words can be poison or medicine; they’re that important.
Okay, so that bit of me sharing something ended up coming out like a devotion after all, haha. And I know the principle is not new, but maybe this spin on it is (it definitely was for me). So, I want to encourage you all to consider your words carefully, and by all means hold me accountable to do the same. Any comments are welcome (via comment or e-mail), though not necessary.