What we say has a much bigger impact on us than we realize. I’m also pretty sure that I am a part of the last generation that had the concept of “watching your mouth” drilled into our psyches by our parents and grandparents, to the level which we did.
When I was eleven years-old, we lived in Petersburg, Virginia. My step-dad was stationed at Fort Lee, and our house was very close to the base. I was in the Fall semester of my 6th grade year at A.P. Hill Elementary School.
There were many things that took place during our time in Virginia that have historical ramifications. Forced bussing, traveling to Washington D.C. and Colonial Williamsburg all had a lasting impact on my future outlook.
But those aren’t the things I am going to discuss this week in Jim Class.
In previous blogs I have mentioned that I am the oldest sibling of three. I have a younger brother and sister. During our time in Virginia, my brother and I were evidently exhibiting behaviors (especially how we talked to each other and maybe hygienically) that my mom thought needed to be reined in. So, she gave us each a copy of a book called, “Stand Up, Shake Hands, and Say, “How Do You Do”: What Every Boy Needs to Know about Today’s Manners” by Marjabelle Young Stewart and Anne Buchwald.
If you couldn’t tell from the title, it is (yes, it’s still in publication and I have a current copy) a book on manners. It was chocked full of good advice – don’t spit on the locker room floor (which I had never done until I read this book), don’t flip each other with towels (a skill I became expert at), and stand up when a lady enters the room (I tried this once and was ridiculed mercilessly by my friends).
As I look back on what was in that book, a large portion had to do with how we should speak. Say “Please and thank you,” address your elders as Mr. and Mrs. or ma’am and sir, ask to be excused from the table, but only after cleaning your plate, are all addressed in “Stand Up” (the title is too long to keep re-typing). There was a chapter on not back-talking or using sarcasm (I’m not sure I’ve learned that one fully).
Throughout the book there are references, in nearly every chapter, that have something to do with what you say. How to talk to teachers, how to conduct yourself at a job interview, how to address the clerks in a retail establishment are all covered.
Now I’m a pastor. I spend a lot of time reading the Bible and searching out the meanings of specific words, verses, or sections of scripture. The connection to “Stand Up” is that the Bible also has a lot to say about what we say!
Luke 6: 43 “You’ll never find choice fruit hanging on a bad, unhealthy tree. And rotten fruit doesn’t hang on a good, healthy tree. 44 Every tree will be revealed by the quality of fruit that it produces. Figs or grapes will never be picked off thorn trees. 45 People are known in this same way. Out of the virtue stored in their hearts, good and upright people will produce good fruit. But out of the evil hidden in their hearts, evil ones will produce what is evil. For the overflow of what has been stored in your heart will be seen by your fruit and will be heard in your words. (NIV)
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible put verse 43 this way, “If he (the one doing the speaking) cannot reform ill manners, he will not corrupt good manners,” – if one is not willing to change bad manners within themselves, there will be no good manners to corrupt.
Henry also noted that, “the tree is the heart.”
Maybe my mom, in her infinite wisdom, had some concept of this, at least in regard to my brother and me. We both wondered why my sister didn’t get a book. There was a girl’s version. My suspicion is, to paraphrase Tommy Smothers (this reference might be lost on those under 50), “She was always mom’s favorite.”
As I recall my younger days, it seems the thing that got me in the most trouble was my mouth. The inspiration for the title of my blog came from a time when I popped off to my gym teacher. I forgot my gym clothes one day (I didn’t do that often; Phys. Ed. was my favorite class).
The teacher asked my where my gym clothes were, and I responded by saying, “All my clothes are “Jim” clothes, coach!” The only good that came from my comment was that it inspired me to call my blog “Jim Class.” The running of laps and doing push-ups that followed (yes, in my “Jim” clothes) made me seem a lot less clever.
I have taught a countless number of sermons that either focused on what we say, or had an element that dealt with controlling our tongues. It seems, based on the comments I received following those messages, I’m not the only one who struggles in this area.
It is also clear that God Himself inspired many of those who wrote passages, eventually included in the canon of scripture, to instruct the people to control what comes out of their mouths – and beyond that, how to fill up on the things that should be proceeding from our mouths.
Psalm 103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 4 Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, 5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (NKJV)
Part of the instruction in this Psalm is not to forget all of God’s benefits. I’m not trying to forget any of His benefits, but I can only focus on one or two at a time. So, let’s look at least one benefit mentioned in verse five.
Psalm 103:5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, (NKJV)
According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the word satisfy, or satisfies, means, “to be fulfilled or enriched.”
This tells us that God has provided something good for us to say. If we compare and contrast this with our earlier passage from Luke – “from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” there could be a connection to what God satisfies us with and what fills our hearts to abundance.
The Bible is touted as being the, “best-selling and least read” book ever printed. These claims are often made by those who supply a pulpit for a living. In light of recent ministerial shake-ups, scandals, and those breaking with their faith, some of them could have used more time in, “The Book,” themselves (myself included).
Christians typically have a “go to” verse, or a “banner scripture” they have written down, memorized, and refer to often. I am no different. Mine comes from the Book of Joshua,
Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (NKJV)
This verse helps tie these other scriptural references together.
I have come up with a catchy phrase that I have been meditating on, “What we meditate, ruminate, matriculate, and eventually regurgitate with be evidence of those things that we are full of.”
The word, “meditate,” in Joshua 1:8 means, “to mutter or to say.” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, H1897)
I heard a preacher long ago say, “We are to meditate on God’s Word like a cow chews on its cud.” According to merriam-webster.com, that is a definition of ruminating.
I see meditate and ruminate as synonymous. It seems that to ruminate is a deeper form of meditation, and, consequently, matriculate goes even further.
Also, according to merriam-webster.com, matriculate, in definition number four, means, “to draw within a figure so as to touch in as many places as possible.” It is typically used in reference to enrolling in university, but my thoughts were more in line with the definition quoted.
If a thought touches as many places as possible during our reflections, it seems that thought will stay with us longer and eventually fill our minds and souls to the point we regurgitate it in the form of words that have matriculated into our belief system.
“Regurgitate – to become thrown or poured back – to memorize facts to be regurgitated on a test.” (merriam-webster.com)
What we meditate is largely in our minds. When we meditate long enough, or ruminate, on God’s Word, we begin to see how it could impact us over a longer period of time and how one particular Word from God has the ability to impact us in multiple areas of our lives.
At that point we begin to matriculate that idea over a broader spectrum of our lives. We look at our family, our work, our school (and many other things) in light of a given scripture.
When we see that God’s plan, His Word, has a place everywhere, and we become convinced of a given idea, we won’t be able to stop ourselves from regurgitating (I must have retained something from that book of manners – I didn’t say puke or vomit) what we have learned.
In short, our tree has become full of good fruit to share with others.