Sunday, 25 March 2012

Think before you speak

Do you ever wonder what Jesus would have been like if he got really drunk? No? Just me then... I thought about this again the other day while reading James chapter 3, about controlling your tongue. Here's the passage:
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a
grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t
draw fresh water from a salty spring.

It's not right that both good and bad talk comes out of our mouth. Our talk should always be pure, wholesome and positive. Clearly it's not, though; we all say things that are harmful, hurtful, even deceitful. So we need to control our tongue, we need to think before we speak. But that's not the ultimate goal, is it?

What we should be aiming and praying for is to become people who cannot help but say positive and helpful things, all the time. You can't draw fresh water from a salty spring, says James, so we should be pleading with God and working hard ourselves at becoming freshwater springs, so to speak. Like Paul says in Romans 12:
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Which brings me back to my question about drunk Jesus – if he was perfect and always did the will of his Father, then I reckon he'd probably be alright if he drank a bit too much one evening hanging out with his disciples. Not that I'm proposing we get drunk as some kind of test of how close to perfection we are! Although how we behave when we've had a few certainly does reveal our weak points...


  1. Of course, there are those who believe that all alcohol is bad, Jesus never drank any alcohol, and whenever he's recorded as drinking wine, he changed it into non-alcoholic wine, because he could do that.

    I don't agree with that.

  2. "Our talk should always be pure, wholesome and positive."

    The definitions of these words can be rather arbitrary, can they not? For example, telling people it would be better to have a millstone put around their neck and be thrown into the sea doesn't seem overly positive. Or calling people a bunch of thieves and then chasing them out of the temple with a whip. Or Paul's wish to see certain agitators undergo complete removal of their genitalia. Or calling some of the 12 "so called super apostles" (or words to that effect).

    I do not think those to whom the comments were directed thought of them as wholesome, pure and positive ("I'm positive you should be drowned". ? ;-). That means what is wholesome, pure and positive is in the mind of the speaker.

    If he or she decides the statement is a needed rebuke (say, for the good of the group, church, individual) then as far as the speaker is concerned, their speech is positive, wholesome and pure--something the recipients may disagree with. If I call someone ignorant, close-minded and unreasonable because they are refusing to acknowledge physical evidence in favour of their flawed--and possibly detrimental--version of ideology/reality, then they won't see my statements as pure, wholesome and positive.

    And me saying I mean it for your own good (therefore it comes from a pure place in my heart) gets into its own philosophical can of worms (patronizing, historical precedents of horrors meant for the peoples' own good, etc).

  3. "Jesus never drank any alcohol, and whenever he's recorded as drinking wine, he changed it into non-alcoholic wine, because he could do that."

    I agree with your disagreement. That's just people trying to jam the facts into their own version of theology. Is that not a pure thing to say?

    This argument fails because it doesn't matter if Jesus was drinking wine or wine turned into water because those who saw him drinking would assume he was drinking wine.

    Two things wrong here: 1) Is this divine deception where he led people to believe he was drinking wine? 2) We are told to avoid even the appearance of evil yet there's Jesus swigging the "wine" (even if it really was all turned to water, all people would see is him filling up his cup with wine and then drinking it).

    So drinking wine can't be a sin because Jesus did it, and if he didn't, he wasn't being a very good example (Jesus is drinking wine, why can't I?)

    By the way, I don't drink wine or any alcohol myself not because of any theological issue but because 1) it is highly carcinogenic and poisonous and wipes out brain cells which seemingly unlike many people, I actually use and need ;-) (me not being positive, wholesome and pure again?), and 2) it is the foulest tasting stuff second only to that vile weed, brussel sprouts. *shudders*

  4. D.J. Andrews, you raise difficult questions about what sort of talk qualifies as 'pure, wholesome and positive'. My glib answer is that I mean everything Christians say should be intended for good, to build people up rather than knock them down. But that answer begins to break down when you're talking about comments like those of Jesus and Paul that you noted.

    I suppose this is why Christians talk about being guided by a combination of Scripture, reason and God directly (i.e. the Holy Spirit). I do believe in the direct inspiration of God prompting people to bring correction to others, but we need to be so careful in this area - if what we want to say or do doesn't harmonise with the character of God (as revealed by the Jesus we see in the Gospels) then I suspect we shouldn't say or do it.