I Know You Mean Well

Retrieved from one of my other blog sites…

One thing that I have learned through the years is that words matter. With just a few short words, we can either build someone up or tear them down with little effort at all. And at times, what we believe to be words of encouragement can actually do serious damage to the person that we are trying to help.

Over the last few weeks, we have been discussing some of the dangers that may come out of common phrases that Christians often say. Things like: God won’t give you more than you can handle, God hates sinners, God helps those who help themselves, and everything happens for a reason. Some of these sound like encouraging words of wisdom taken straight from the Bible; however, they are not. Many well meaning followers of Christ use these phrases (and others like them) thinking that they are quoting scripture. However, when we examine the scriptures, they are nowhere to be found. As a result what ends up happening is that we ultimately end up painting an inaccurate description God and His character.

So what’s the point? Before I get to that, let’s take a look at James 3: 1-11. To be completely honest, I think that there’s a little more depth to James’s call for followers of Christ to control our tongues. In James 3 we read:

1. Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

That’s a pretty heavy truth right there! Most people read this passage of scripture and apply it to the use of foul language and they’re right. James is talking about that, but there’s more to it. What James is talking about here is how we talk to each other. How we communicate with those around us as followers of Christ can either point people to Jesus or point them away from Him. Truth be told, I have found that may well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ do more damage with what we believe to be words of encouragement, like the phrases discussed through this series, than actually encourage those around us.

Photo by Saneej Kallingal on Unsplash

Often phrases like these are a mere misunderstanding of what scripture is actually saying. For example, scripture says nothing about God only giving you what you can handle. In fact when we examine scripture we see evidence that He will absolutely give you more than you can handle. If He didn’t, we would have no need to come to Him in our time of need and would have nothing to sing praises to Him about. This goes along with the phrase “God helps those who help themselves.” If either of these were true, then there would be absolutely no need for God. And not only are they not true, but they are not found in the Bible at all.

Many of us have heard or have said the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.” The problem with this phrase is that, as encouraging as it might sound, it has the potential to lead a person to fatalism – why bother- and excuses – why try because God is in control anyway- type of thinking. But scripture tells us that God CAN weave his purposes IN all things. NOT that He causes all things to happen.

Many of us have seen “followers of Christ” on TV picketing with signs stating that God hates sinners. 😑This phrase isn’t even close to scriptural. It’s not the sinner that God hates; it’s the sin that He hates. Many who have raised their children in the Church and according to the Word of God have seen their children leave home and leave their faith as well. Do the parents hate their children after this happens? No! They still love them regardless of their decisions, but they may not love the decisions that their children are making. The same goes for God. He still loves the person, I would argue that He loves them even more, but He doesn’t love the sin that we CHOOSE to hold on to. If God hates sinners, then what was the point of sending Jesus, His one and only Son, to pay the price that was needed for our salvation?

My hope in sharing this is that we all begin to think through some of the common words of encouragement that we tend to offer people and ask ourselves if they are actually Biblical and if they are painting an accurate picture of God and His character.

Peace and blessings until next time,

PG

Published by Pastor Garry D. McGlinchy

I am the lead pastor of Culpeper Hope Community Church of the Nazarene in Northern Virginia. I write about my understanding of Scripture and the way that it intersects culture today. As a pastor, I fight for the underdog, those who are often on the margins of society.

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