As I pulled up to a traffic light recently, I noticed the car in front of me had an encouraging bumper sticker which said, “What is more frightening than nuclear war? Eternity Without God.” A good thought. A nice point. And yet, this car’s bumper troubled me. On the other end of this same bumper were two profane, slightly obscene stickers that bore absolutely no resemblance to the God-honoring statement above. And wedged in between the sticker that deified the Holy One and the ones that defied Him was a singular word in bold capital letters: WHATEVER!
I wondered, How often do our lives reflect this kind of conflict? Do we have statements on one end of our lives that honor God and actions on the other end that dishonor the One we worship? Are there tongues that will praise God and curse men?
Are we like that bottle of vanilla extract, which presents a delightfully pleasing aroma to our nostrils but leaves a bitter taste when placed on our tongues? Are we able to say the right words when being overheard among Christians, but still let that tongue fly when we are angry or frustrated?
Consider how the things we say can be in conflict with the way we live. Or how we may say two things out of one mouth, both honoring and defiling God, being led first by our flesh and then by the Spirit of God:
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praising and cursing. My brothers, this should not be! Can both fresh and salt-water flow from the same springsIf any man is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check…. The tongue is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires…. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (Quotes from James 3:9-11; 3:2,6; 1:19-20, 26).Religion is often made worthless by the contradictions in our lives. We can live in such an inconsistent way, that our life makes no more sense than a bumper that is both obscene and praiseworthy. In the end, a tongue which praises and curses: a life without control over anger or speech, is a life which shouts loudly at God and the world: WHATEVER!
Jimmy Shaw in “The Anchor” – February 16, 1997