Who can I bless today?

Our words to others can be a weapon or a soothing comfort. “A gentle answer turns away rage, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

Every day, we come into contact with people. We can use words to bless them. Asking the grocery store checkout person a simple question like, “How is work going today?” may show them you care. Make a point of taking your business back to the same place, so you can develop a relationship with that person. Next time, ask how their day is going in a different way. They will see that you really want to know. Be sensitive – if they are busy, just give a warm smile and say thank you. If no other customers are around, you may have the opportunity to get a little deeper. End by asking, “Can I pray for you about that?” And then on your way back to the office, really pray.

Take the opportunity to be nice to that phone customer feedback person. It’s easy to cut them off, because we all have limited time. But remember that they are human too. Your warm words may be the best part of their day.

Build into your daily routines opportunities to bless people. When you go to the bank, take the extra time to go inside, rather than using the drive-through window. Go inside to get your fast food. It might take you an extra three minutes, but you’ll have the opportunity to talk with someone.

Comment on just one person’s blog today. Put an encouraging word there. Take a few minutes to come up with a really thoughtful response.

When your kid gets home from school, stop what you’re doing and really ask them about their day. “What was the best thing that happened today?”

lip service

It’s a constant challenge. And I think that’s good.

What is?

Checking what we say against our hearts.

It means, of course, that we have to take the blob our words form as they trail out of our mouths and scoop them up and put them on the table. A large table. With a clear, bright light above it. And room to spread them out and look for patterns.

And then, when patterns emerge like the whorls of fingerprints or the spatter of gunshot residue, searching the database of our hearts for a match.

If the verbal fingerprints are a cheery pink, with smooth edges, but the heart prints are fiery and broken, what is on the inside clearly doesn’t match.

The words are a cover for what is really happening inside.

That’s what Jesus was saying about the Pharisees who were questioning him about washing his hands. He dissected their case against him by point out the fractures in their own case, the inconsistencies between their hearts and lips.

And then he brought out an authority they held in honor.

Isaiah, he said, mentioned them.

Of course, they thought, in the latter chapters, the healing chapters, the honoring chapters. But no, he said, right there in chapter 29.

‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.

Let’s go back to the table for a bit, back to our process of evaluation.

If we are willing to stop adding words and look at what’s there, we may find the mismatch mentioned earlier. However,  we may find that the more our hearts resemble Jesus’s, the more our words will match our hearts and his.

When people are serious about following, there is progress.

Careless words

Jesus healed a man who couldn’t see and couldn’t speak.

He condemns some men who could.

The former had a demon, an evil spirit, an agent of satan.

The latter accused Jesus of working for satan.

The former caused people to begin to ask serious, thoughtful questions about the identity of Jesus, about his role in the lineage of David.

The latter caused people to wonder.

(By the way, this contrast of the man who couldn’t speak and the men who shouldn’t is in Matthew 12. The short version? A man had a demon that kept him from seeing and speaking. Jesus healed him. The people were impressed. The Pharisees said that the devil made him do it.)

Jesus takes issue with the reaction of the group of men who reacted to the healing. They were religious leaders. They talked among themselves. They made a sarcastic, dismissive comment. But Jesus overheard their thoughts and did what any self-respecting rabbi would do in response to unsound reasoning.

He destroyed it.

He identified the logical inconsistencies in their claim. He made it impossible for them to cling to their statement without condemning their colleagues who had done the same thing Jesus had. He summarized demon-removal theory. He said that actions prove the nature of the actor, words prove the nature of the speaker. He made a very large deal out of their comment.

And then he summarizes his teaching this way:

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”

Oh my. Every careless word? Every smart comment? Each of every three hundred words?

Oh. Then there is this difficulty. When Jesus starts teaching, he starts because he knew their thoughts.

Every careless.

We are called to be careful.