Set A Guard Over My Mouth

It's fun to watch a baby grow. They begin to pull on the furniture and stand up, to smile when they recognize a parent or sibling, and to say words for the first time while we good-naturedly argue over what we thought they said! The ability to communicate is one of God's best gifts, but the older I get the more I see the harm done by words. And followers of Christ aren't immune from causing harm.

Sometimes we say things we shouldn't and violate the privacy of others by calling it prayer concern.

I remember a lady who used to probe me in prayer meetings with questions like, "Now who is this?" and "What kind of surgery is it?"

Really it's not our prerogative to go into minutia like this. I've tried discreetly to call for prayer without going into details, all the while assuring attendees that God is aware of the need to a greater degree than us, and has promised to give grace to those in need and to those who care enough to humbly pray for them. The apostle James wrote, "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble'" (James 4:6).

I knew a pastor who sponsored a gossip chain years before we had e-mail chains. One of his ministries was to write letters of encouragement to those he met in itinerant ministry. His handwriting was distinctive and he wrote in beautiful language. But I got a letter from him once that was photocopied, so obviously he'd sent it to at least one other person. The letter explained in detail the charges leveled against one of our brothers who'd stumbled in ministry and been embarrassed in the media. I thought this gossipy letter very inappropriate no matter the status of the writer.

Another way we gossip today is through social media. Now I suppose it's harmless, though cruel, when someone takes a picture of the steak they're about to eat in the restaurant and posts it for the rest of us to see! But sometimes believers in Christ share feelings and emotions in public that would best be shared over coffee with a trusted friend. It's true all believers struggle at times, and this is why we need a close group of friends such as a prayer group or Sunday School class. Those in spiritual turmoil should be wary of putting these matters out in public where those with no faith can read and perhaps misunderstand.

The psalmist's prayer is good one: "Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips" (Psalm 141:3).