Talk is Not Cheap

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:43-45.

Our words are an important component of our lives. James writes, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” (James 3:2). And the Proverbs 10:21 says, “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.” And, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11).

As ambassadors of Christ, let us make sure that the words of our mouths are worth consuming. And that goes for our keyboards, too.

The Accusation Arms Race

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” Luke 6:37-42.

I used to think this was about getting judgment and condemnation from God if I dish that out to others. But in this context it is about the believer’s effect on the world that God has called him to reach with the Gospel.

If we focus on the world’s sin, they will focus on ours. And if we don’t have enough for them to find, they will create a whole ecosystem of political correctness, hate crimes and wrong-think charges to use to cancel you. This is what we get when we forget to teach forgiveness and where it comes from. We become blind guides who lead our world into the pit instead of to Christ.

We are not to judge the world. In so doing we start an accusation arms race. We must tell them the good news that God has cancelled their debt, dropped their charges, and offered them a new life. If they reject the deal, they can keep the debt, the charges, and their old life. But that deal is always on the table. It is what we have to offer. It is all we should offer.

Passive Aggressive Revolution

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36.

This is the most counterintuitive teaching you are likely to hear. But that is because it comes from another world, another dimension, “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20). It is our ultimate destination, and we are here to invite even our enemies to come with us, not to defeat them in the temporal world.

This is quite revolutionary. You set yourself free from anger, victimization and revenge without a political movement, riot, or even permission. You take control by letting go. You demonstrate the kingdom of God and win the hearts and minds of some of your oppressors. You won’t win them all, but at least they didn’t convert YOU. Only when you become like them do you really lose.

Dr. King and his followers won the hearts and minds of a generation by silently suffering abuse, on the nightly news, from their racist enemies. Most people knew that was wrong, and it had to be made right. Had he incorporated violence, riots, and broadly accused all whites, whether they were guilty or not, we’d still be segregated today. Maybe we are going back to that now.

The Pleasure Trap

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” Luke 6:24-26.

I believe two things are being said here. First, if you are poor, hungry, sad, and despised, take heart! Your day is coming. You will inherit a kingdom eternal where you will be loved, filled, and delighted. Second, if you are already filled, loved, and delighted by the things of this world, this is it. It will come to an end.

So, is Jesus calling all to lives of poverty, deprivation, and persecution? I believe the key to this is in the last sentence. Everyone spoke well of the false prophets. And that’s because the false prophets always spoke well of them. They never brought correction. A favorable word could be had for a price.

Being faithful to God will set you against the main stream. It may cost you comfort, safety, and popularity. And if you’re faithful enough, you can count on it. But you can also count on a rich, joyous eternity. “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Hebrews (11:35-38).

Less is More

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Luke 6:20-23.

Whatever you are suffering, make sure it is because of your faithfulness to God. And if your suffering is hard to find the reason for it, put it into perspective. As Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18).

When I consider all the possessions I have owned over the past 40 years, and all the hours I worked to pay for and maintain them, as well as moving them from house to house, the relative poverty I am experiencing now is pretty sweet. Of course, it is American poverty, where I am surrounded by and use a lot of modern infrastructure that makes me rich relative to living in Haiti or Bangladesh.

But what if I suffered the harsh, third world poverty of hunger, sickness, exposure, and actual oppression? It would be tempting to consider the ease of others and become bitter. Or to plot a course to a better place, a heaven on earth. Or I could contemplate the very short term of suffering and the eternal destination of peace and joy. That might change how I actually feel about my privations. Whatever my circumstances, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13).