Crude and Rude
April 3, 2002 • By Ed Wrather
Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. - James 3:3-6.
Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. - James 3:10.
A survey conducted by Public Agenda found that 79% believe that the lack of respect and courtesy in the United States is a serious problem and most believed it was becoming worse. Surprisingly many people admitted during the survey that they were rude themselves and more than a third admitted to using foul language in public. Those surveyed blamed their rudeness on a variety of things from overcrowding in public places to busy lives. Some researchers such as Harvard University professor Robert D. Putnam say that rudeness is a result of increasing social isolation in our society.
Being a pastor, I live in a somewhat sheltered environment rarely hearing a rude or unkind word because people are careful what they say when they are around me. I have heard the argument from some people that they cannot control their speech, but this is not true. We can control what we say if we have a desire to do so. No, it will not be without effort, but we can do it just as people usually control what they say when they are at church or visiting with their pastor.
While I was a parole officer a young man was brought into the city jail on several offenses. At first, I didn’t know who it was uttering the foulest most offensive language I had ever heard. When I asked the jailer, I found out it was a son of a couple that went to our church, and I knew the young man. When I walked up to the cell and said “hello” the tirade instantly ended, and he said “Mr. Wrather.” He began speaking in a completely different way including phrases such as “yes, sir,” and “no, sir.” Since that time, he has gone from bad to worse and has been in prison for several years. I still have hope; however, that this young man will turn to God.
God is still the answer to our speech problem even today. Our busy lives become controlled lives (Galatians 5:24) when we include God. Our tension at being in overcrowded places and highways will dissipate the closer we become to God (James 4:7-8). Our social isolation will end as we become fully functioning members of the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Let us stop allowing our tongue to run and ruin our lives. Instead allow God to become the rudder that guides us into pathways of peace, gentleness, and kindness. As the apostle Paul says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one (Colossians 4:6).”