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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:How Then Shall We Speak?
Text:LD 43 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 9th Commandment (Lying)
 
Added:2022-03-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: James 3

Lesson: Lord’s Day 43

 

HOW THEN SHALL WE SPEAK?

  1. By Being Silent When We Should

  2. By Speaking When We Must

  3. By Being Wise At All Times

 

  1. Psalm 100: 1-3

  2. Psalm 109: 1, 2, 11

  3. Hymn 81: 1, 2, 7

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Psalm 1: 1, 2

  6. Psalm 100: 4

 

Words to Listen For: favorite, farmhouse, feared, flag, foolish

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What is hate speech?

  2. What is the lesson of little Johnny?

  3. What’s wrong with “technically” ?

  4. Does every truth need to be told every time?  (Remember to T.H.I.N.K.)

  5. How did Jesus speak?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved brothers and sisters,

    Please let me be silent when I should be silent

    Please give me what I need to speak when I should speak

    And above all, give me wisdom to know the difference.

This is the little prayer that I pray before every visit.  In the car, as I’m driving to your house, or to the hospital, or to Manoah Manor, these few and simple words are what I pray.  I pray this because I know, that on visits, it is my tongue, it is my language, the words that I speak, far more than how I dress or how I sit...that will either be used by God to provide comfort and peace, or, alternately, will be used by Satan to sow seeds of discord.

A word fitly spoken, so says King Solomon, is like apples of gold in setting of silver.

But the words of the reckless pierce like swords.

 

Please let me be silent when I should be silent

    Please give me what I need to speak when I should speak

    And above all, give me wisdom to know the difference.

 

This is my prayer, a few times a week...but maybe it should be my prayer every day.  And maybe it shouldn’t just be the prayer of a pastor, or an elder, or a deacon, but the prayer of each and every one of you, each and every day.

HOW THEN SHALL WE SPEAK?

  1. By Being Silent When We Should

  2. By Speaking When We Must

  3. By Being Wise At All Times

 

We Speak Properly by Being Silent When We Should

There are so many times when I want to say so many things.  There are so many things that I want to say, but I know that I have to hold my tongue.  I know that not every thought that goes through my head is a good one.  Not every thought is a useful one, and so I have to hold my tongue and guard my speech.

And, given our reading from James, and also, given the fact that you all have heard me speak...you know that I’m not always successful in this.  My mouth regularly runs ahead of my mind and my heart, and wisdom and love is lacking.

James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says that the tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man.  I am not here this afternoon to declare to you that I am a perfect man.  Far from it.  I struggle with speech too...like each one of us.

We are all guilty of what can rightly be called “Hate speech.”  Now, when I use this terminology, I know that many thoughts immediately crop up in our minds.  This is because “hate speech” is such a buzzword in today’s society.  Everything and anything is declared hate speech.  So I thought, in preparation for this sermon this week...maybe I could find a definition of hate speech from our secular society, and contrast it with how Scripture views it.  So...I did a bit of digging.  I did a bit of digging on the websites of a few different big woke brands.  Brands that are on the cutting edge of what is politically correct.  And...honestly...there wasn’t much to go on.  Despite having pages and pages, articles and articles on how destructive and damaging hate speech was...the term was never properly defined.  Instead, various other terms and examples popped up, all under the umbrella of hate-speech.  

Questioning election integrity is now considered hate speech, and is one of the most damaging things we can do online...they say.

Medical misinformation is now hate-speech...even some medical information coming from the World Health Organization has been labelled this way.

And...my personal favorite, the vague-sounding and ultimately meaningless phrase “bad content.”  Bad content is hate speech.

I even saw the following quote censored this week due to it being, and I quote, “violent, graphic, dangerous hate speech.”

Stand up for what you believe, even if it means standing alone.  This is now HATRED by the world’s standards.

Clearly this world has very little idea of what they are talking about when it comes to hate speech and they are in desperate need of re-education.    You can’t label everything you don’t like as racist, and you can’t label everything that is PROBLEMATIC as HATE.

But thankfully, we are not left completely in the dark as to what hate speech truly is.  We are not left in the dark as to when we should be silent.  Our catechism does an admirable job of defining hate speech for us.

I must not give false testimony against anyone

Twist no one’s words

Not gossip or slander

Nor condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard

THIS is what hate speech truly is.

Speech that comes from a lack of knowledge or lack of research on a topic... isn’t hate speech.  Speech that contradicts the dominant political narrative...this isn’t hate speech

But speech that is malicious?  Speech that attacks our neighbour…this is hate speech.  The problem isn’t ultimately the tongue, as though this little organ can hijack our minds and our hearts...but out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

And so, hate speech can rightly be defined this way: The intentional overflow of a hateful heart, designed to push others down and lift you up.  This speech is not true or at the very least unnecessary. (x2)

This is the kind of speech that we must fight.  This is what we must avoid.  When hatred begins to bubble up in our heart, when jealous rears its ugly head, and envy turns us green…let us take a careful watch on our tongue, that this poison brewing in the cauldron of our hearts does not get out and harm someone else.

Because that is what it does, doesn’t it?  A lie, a deception, a hateful comment...it just causes wave after wave of destruction in its wake.  And this destruction lasts.

One day, the phone rang in a a small farmhouse down a dirt road.  It was the school teacher.  Little Johnny has been telling lies.  And when I call him out for this, he responds with very angry words.  Please work with him.

I’ll do what I can said Johnny’s father.

After school that day, Johnny was taken out back, behind the house, and shown an old wooden fence.  The wood of the fence, though old, was solid.  Little Johnny was given a big heavy hammer and some nails, and his father told him: “Every time you tell a lie, every time you lose your temper, you have to hammer a nail into this fence.”  They did the first one together, and it was no easy task for a boy as small as Johnny.

At first, Johnny was pounding 10 or 15 nails into that fence every day.  His little hands were blistered, his little arms were sore.  The school wondered what the father was doing, but he assured them that he was teaching his son a valuable lesson.  Then, one day, Johnny came home and excitedly told his father I don’t have to pound any nails today!  And I’m really glad...my hands are just SO SORE!

So Johnny’s father took him to the fence and said...Every day that you don’t have to pound any new nails in...maybe you should take a nail out.  Here’s a knife to whittle away the wood at the end, and then stick the claws of the hammer around the nail, and pull.

After many weeks, the nails were all gone, and Johnny’s dad took him to the fence one more time.  What do you see Johnny?  he asked.

Johnny replied: There’s a lot of damage to this old fence.  There’s holes from the nails, dents from the hammer where I missed, and it’s all chewed up from where I stuck in the knife.  The nails are gone...but you can still tell what I’ve done.

And Johnny’s father replied: That’s what lying does.  That’s what your angry words do to people.  This was a strong old fence...but these nails left marks that can never be repaired.  Do you understand?

Johnny nodded, and tears ran down his cheeks as he realized the effects his words had on his classmates.

 

They say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  What a LIE that is.  Words can hurt more than any physical pain, and the effects can last a lot longer.  So be careful with the words you use.

  • Lying is forbidden, in court and a thousand other places

  • Technically telling the truth, but twisting it is forbidden.

    • Well, TECHNICALLY I didn’t lie.

      • Well, TECHNICALLY, you’re a sinner.  Repent.

  • Gossip, harming the reputation of someone by sharing damaging or embarrassing information about them, whether it’s true or not...is forbidden.

  • Hearing gossip or slander and jumping to conclusions...hearing gossip about someone and then reporting it to their elder “out of care for the person” is forbidden.  YOU go!  YOU search out the truth!  YOU act in love.  Do not pass the buck to someone else.  Stop the gossip in its tracks, do not continue the transmission, and, if need be, go and speak to the person who has been slandered and see how you can help.  THIS is not forbidden, but indeed, it is REQUIRED.

We must be cautious in what we say, stopping our mouth from speaking words of hate...but we must also show bravery and courage in defending the truth.  We are to speak when we must.  Our second point.

The truth is a tricky thing, beloved.  We can love the truth, we can speak the truth, and still break this commandment.  You may wonder how this is possible.  After all, the ninth commandment is about lying.  So the opposite, constantly telling the truth must be the fulfillment of the commandment.  And yet, I just said that loving the truth and speaking the truth isn’t enough.  How can this be?

The catechism says the following:

    In court, and everywhere else,

    I must love the truth

    Speak and confess it honestly

    And do what I can

    To defend and promote

    My neighbour’s honour and reputation.

Did you catch it?  Did you see the qualifiers here?  The truth is important.  It is VITALLY important...we must love it, speak and confess it honestly…

But the end of this...we do this TO DEFEND AND PROMOTE MY NEIGHBOUR’S HONOUR AND REPUTATION.

The original commandment in Exodus was worded very intentionally and exactly: You shall not bear false witness AGAINST your neighbour.  It is not a stretch, even just from these words here, to see that there might be a time when we SHOULD, when we MUST bear false witness FOR our neighbour.

And due to our old nature, our sinful nature, our minds are racing, trying to see what kind of lies we can get away with and still be TECHNICALLY following this commandment.

But remember what I said moments ago…

TECHNICALLY...

Yeah, technically you’re a sinner.  Repent.

Scripture gives us two examples of when bearing false witness is not only appropriate, but actually commended by God.

Just before our reading in James 3, right at the end of James 2, we see one of the two examples.  Rahab.  Rahab the prostitute, James said, was JUSTIFIED when she received the messengers.  We know this story...spies were sent into the Promised Land, and came to Jericho.  Rahab hid them and lied about their whereabouts to save their lives.  And then her life was spared, and she joined the people of Israel.  Rahab lied, and was commended for it.

And the other example: the Hebrew midwives.  They lied to the Pharaoh about the Hebrew babies being born because they feared God.  They lied because they loved God and obeyed Him, and God dealt with them favorably and blessed them.  

Rahab, Shiphrah, and Puah lied.  TECHNICALLY they broke the 9th commandment, but in reality...in reality, in heart, they fulfilled it.

They promoted their neighbour’s honour and reputation.  They SAVED THEIR NEIGHBOUR’S LIFE.  This is the GREATEST GOOD.

And so, we can see here that not every truth is a truth to tell.  This is the case when it comes to saving a life, in which case, sometimes lies must be told...but also in smaller and more mundane things.

Not every truth is a truth worth sharing.  We tell the truth when we must.

I don’t know if you’ve seen a young child encounter new things...but a young child has no filter. When they speak, they say whatever pops into their minds.  If someone is especially tall, or especially short, their little voice will pop up - Mommy!  Why is this man so short?  The same if the person is of a different skin colour, or especially skinny, or especially fat.

This IS the truth...a short man is short.  A tall woman is tall.  A black person is black.  It’s true!  But is it necessary?

Sometimes speaking the truth is the easy way out.  Sometimes speaking the truth is the hateful option.

Remember the prayer: Please let me be silent when I should be silent.

We should not only silence lies, but sometimes unnecessary truths.

Think of it like this.  Before you speak...THINK.  T-H-I-N-K.

Is it: T- TRUE

Is it: H - HELPFUL

Is it: I - IMPACTFUL

Is it: N- NECESSARY

Is it: K - KIND

Asking if it’s true is only part of the question.

But, all of this to say...sometimes the truth is the easy and hateful option, but sometimes the truth is the hardest thing in the world.  And, usually, in THESE CASES...this is when we MUST speak.  It’s easy to stay silent, it’s easier to tell a lie...but we must live in accordance with the truth.  When people are suffering and dying, WE MUST SPEAK OUT.  Let me give the example of abortion here because this is such an easy one to get wrong.

We can all agree that aboriton is one of the greatest evils ever committed on this earth.  The cruel murder of the most vulnerable human beings.  This is a great evil and MUST be opposed.  Abortion is murder, this is the truth.  The women who have abortions are murderers, and the doctors who practice abortions are murderers.  This is the truth.

But.  How must we oppose this?

There is the flag planting display at many churches and at the Parliament buildings in Ottawa a few times a year.  Each blue or pink one, waving in the wind, representing lives brutally cut short.  This is one way to oppose.  This is good, but it’s not enough.

Petitioning our Member of Parliament with letters, presenting the horrific facts of abortion with pictures and videos of babies at various stages of growth in the womb, pictures and videos of what abortion actually does...this is true.  This is right.

But protesting outside of abortion clinics…let’s think about this seriously.

Many of the women who go to clinics to have an abortion are emotional.  Many of them feel trapped.  Many of them feel ashamed.  Is telling them the true fact that they are about to become a murderer...is this loving?  Is this what is really commanded by God?  Or instead, if we do go to abortion clinics, instead of yelling at them, demonizing them, could we gently try to persuade them of other options?  Could we plead with them to rethink their decision?  Take them out for coffee, direct them to clinics that will provide actual healthcare for their unborn baby, offer to adopt the child or put them in touch with an adoption agency?

It’s not that yelling at them isn’t truthful.  It’s not that showing them pictures of the horrors of abortion is a lie.  But there are other ways.  There are other ways that are more in line with what God wants of His people.

The time and place for these pictures is the supreme court and the politicians.

Those who make these decisions about the bodies of other human beings, allowing them to be murdered, treating them like medical waste...they must be made to look and see what they have done.

This is a hard truth, but it must be said.  It must be shared far and wide.

The same could be said for those struggling with identity issues.  Those who aren’t sure if they are male or female, those who aren’t sure whether they like girls or boys.  The same could be said for any number of issues.  Let us take a firm stance on the truth, but always, ALWAYS be wise in how you speak it.  Our final point.

The point that the Apostle James makes in our reading, that with the tongue we can bless or we can curse.  With the tongue we praise God, and curse our brothers and sisters made in His image...this point is put very well in a story about Aesop.  Now, the children among us have probably heard the name Aesop before, haven’t you?

Aesop was an author who wrote wonderful fables about talking animals such as The Tortoise and the Hare where we learn that slow and steady wins the race, or the story of The Ant and the Grasshopper where we learn that there is a time to work and a time to play.  But there’s another story about Aesop that you probably don’t know.  This time, he isn’t the author, but he is the character.

The story goes like this:

Aesop was a slave of a rich but foolish man named Xanthus.  Xanthus and his wife had been fighting, and Aesop wanted to solve their disagreement.  He found his opportunity when Xanthus was planning a dinner party, and sent Aesop to the market to buy food.  He told Aesop to get the best food that they had.

Aesop returned and cooked a dinner of four courses, but when Xanthus and his guests sat down at the table and saw that each course was made of tongue, cooked in different ways, they were furious!  Xanthus questioned Aesop, and Aesop simply responded:

Is there anything better than the tongue? It is a channel of learning, a key to all knowledge, an organ that proclaims truth and praises God.

 

Xanthus was intrigued, and said, "Go to the market tomorrow and buy the worst thing you can find for the dinner. We'll see what you'll bring."

Aesop went to the market and bought tongues again. Xanthus became even angrier than before, but Aesop simply said: It was an evil tongue that caused your fight with your wife.  The tongue is the source of evil and war. It is used to spread blasphemy, slander and lies. Undoubtedly, there is nothing worse in the world than the tongue.

You see, beloved, the tongue is an organ of great power...and with great power comes great responsibility.  There is nothing better in this world than the tongue, but there is nothing worse in this world than the tongue.  Both are true.  And so we must be wise.

But how?  How can we be wise?

Well, we must see and follow the example of the wisest man to have ever lived.  And I do not mean Solomon beloved.  For, as our Lord Himself said, one greater than Solomon is here.  Jesus Christ was wisdom personified, and His speech is the example we must follow.  He was not timid, He was not afraid of speaking truth to power, but He did not speak the same to everyone.

Compare how He spoke to the Pharisees and to the poor and the downtrodden.

Multiple times, Jesus spoke harsh words to the Pharisees.  Words of woe and condemnation, calling them whitewashed tombs and a brood of vipers.  These were true words.  Their hearts were not pure, they did not have peace with God, and they were caught in their sin.

But many times Jesus spoke gentle words to others.  Words of blessing and forgiveness, calling them sons and daughters.  These ALSO were true words.  Those He spoke too did not have pure hearts, they did not have peace with God, and they were caught in their sin.  So what’s the difference, beloved?

The difference is their HEART.  The difference is their NEED.  The Pharisees did not need a gentle hand, for they did not sin out of insecurity or being trodden under the heel of those more powerful than them.  They sinned out of pride, and someone had to prick that pride.  You’re not any better than the other sinners!

But the others?  Those who were downtrodden?  They were sinning, they were trapped because nobody would help them.  Nobody was willing to see their struggle and meet them where they were at.

And this may seem like an insurmountable task.  Jesus can see the heart.  Jesus can see the need.  He’s God...and we are not.

And yet, we do have God inside of us.  The Holy Spirit is working on our minds and our hearts.  The Holy Spirit is working in us to control our tongue, to tame it so that we might be perfect men and women of the kingdom.

Let us open our eyes and learn from the example of our Saviour, resting in His strength, knowing that He forgives us for our harsh and unloving words, that He forgives us for our lies, and works truth in our heart.  Let us cast our cares upon Him, and seek to imitate Him in all He does.

As we read His example, as we see what He spoke, and how those with Him began to speak after years of following, after decades of devotion...we will begin to speak like the master.  We will begin to gain control over our tongue, and use it always, only, ever, for the good of our neighbour, and for the glory of our God.

Let me close with a simple poem.  A simple poem that should truly be the cry of your heart.  I know that it is the cry of mine.

Oh that it may be said of me

Surely thy speech betrays thee

Thou hast been with Jesus of Galilee

With Jesus of Galilee.

AMEN.




 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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