I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
Ephesians 4:29-32 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up,[a] as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.[b]
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
The writer of Ephesians is concerned about the sin that is probably the easiest to fall into and the sin that can have the gravest consequences. It is the wrong and the hurt that is done by the words that we say. Jesus warned in Matthew 12, “By your words you will be justified; and by your words you will be condemned.” Proverbs 15:1-4 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath; but a harsh words stirs up anger. . . . A gentle tongue is a tree of life; but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
With the advent of social media, rumors and stories spread exponentially and world-wide in no time at all—like a raging wildfire. I get forwarded emails all the time that are hoaxes—dating back more than 20 years and still circulating as fact. Some of them are enormously destructive and hurtful, yet they are forwarded and forwarded and forwarded and continue to damage at a distance without the possibility of control.
Here’s a story to ponder today:
An established leader in a small farming community in the Midwest was falsely accused of wrongdoing. It was a vicious, scandalous story, and it swept through town like a prairie fire.
“Have you heard about John?”
“Can you believe it?”
“He oughta leave town.”
“You’d never think such a thing to look at him, would you?”
“Guess he had a lot of us fooled.”
“His poor wife.”
After a period of time, however, the rumor was found to be just that…an ugly, empty rumor, without any basis in fact. But the damage had already been done. Many people in the town had believed every word and were now reluctant to revise their opinions. (“There must have been some truth in it, or why would everybody be talking about it?)
Sometime later, the couple who had spread the false tale out of spite began to feel guilty and went to him to apologize. Confessing they had known the rumor to be false all along, they asked the offended man for forgiveness.
“Of course I will forgive you,” he replied gravely, “but could I ask you to do something for me? Something that might seem rather strange at first?”
Relieved that he was willing to forgive, the couple readily agreed to do whatever he asked.
“All right,” he said, “here is my request. I would like you to go home and butcher one of your chickens, pluck out all of the feathers, and put the feathers in a bag. Could you do that for me?”
They nodded yes; they could certainly do that. But it seemed so strange. Was the man asking for a chicken?
“Next,” he continued, “I’d like you to go throughout the town, and at each corner, scatter some of the feathers—just a few—from the bag. Then, please take the remaining feathers and climb to the top of the old city water tower—you know, the one by the feed store—and scatter those to the wind. Could you do those things?”
They were mystified by this point but nodded in the affirmative once again.
“Fine,” he said, “just fine.” The couple stood up to leave. But as they reached the door, he suddenly called them back. “Oh. There’s one more thing, please. After you’ve finished scattering all the feathers, I’d just like you to go back through town and gather them all up again. Okay? Make sure that you pick up every one you’ve dropped and every one you’ve scattered to the winds, and put them all back in the bag. Please be careful that none of the feathers is missing, and bring the bag back to me. Could you do that for me?
The couple just looked at him. “That’s impossible,” the man said. “The wind would have blown them all over three counties by then.”
The victim of the gossip didn’t say a word and slowly the truth of his word picture began to dawn on the couple and they hung their heads. Yes, they could be forgiven for their actions, but no one could undo the damage they had done by scattering their false and slanderous words. (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments (Multnomah Publishers: Sisters, Oregon, 1998), pp. 211-213.)
I am a Rotarian and in Rotary we have what we call The Rotary Four-way Test:
- Is it the TRUTH?
- Is it FAIR to all concerned?
- Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
- Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Remember the Apostle Paul gave a great insight when he declared, “Even though I can speak in the tongues of mortals and of and angels–if I have not love–I have gained nothing.”
Sometimes before I preach, I pray the prayer found in Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” It is a prayer for everyone at every time—not just for a preacher before the sermon.
There is a lot of theology woven in to hymns. To enhance today’s reading, I recommend listening to “Lord, Speak to Me that I May Speak”. I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul. Listen to this hymn on SoundCloud.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster