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March 14 – You Don’t Say

Look both ways to be sure that we’re alone. I have a confession to make. I am a Tom Lehrer fan. There, I said it. Lehrer is a musical satirist who was popular in the late 50’s and early 60’s. As a satirist, his humor is meant to poke fun at the conventions of society. He recognizes the problems that can cause. On one of his records, as he is introducing a song, he lets people know how strongly he stands behind his words. “If anyone disagrees with anything I say, I am quite prepared not only to retract it, but also to deny under oath that I ever said it.” If only it could be that simple, sometimes.

To continue my confession mode, there have been times when I’ve said something and I looked at the people I was with and said, “I didn’t say that.” I knew what I said could be taken the wrong way. I knew it might bother some people. I said what I thought, but I tried to protect myself from any consequences. Jesus understands people like me. “Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.’” (Matthew 15:10-11)

Jesus kept dealing with the Pharisees and it must have been frustrating. Everything they did was predicated on the idea that “I love God better than you.” In this encounter, they were making a big deal of handwashing. Let’s get this straight – God commanded some things about handwashing. He wanted to keep His people safe from germs even before people knew about them. The Pharisees, though, had developed elaborate rituals to make their handwashing a show. In restaurants one of the hints for employees washing their hands is to sing the “Happy Birthday” song while they’re washing their hands to make sure they give it enough time. Based on their rituals, Pharisees in today’s world would have to sing “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to make sure that they gave it enough time. (That song lasts 17 minutes.) And they made sure that everyone knew and saw what they were doing because they were Pharisees and “I love God better than you.”

As Jesus dealt with their remarks about His disciples not washing their hands, He pointed out that the Pharisees, while saying the “right” words, sought to nullify God’s laws about taking care of their family. The words that came out of their mouth sounded pious, “Everything I have belongs to God,” but the result of those words was to feed their own greed since what they meant was, “I can take care of my own needs and wants without having to worry about my family. Let someone else do that.” Everything they said was meant to show how great and pious they were, but their own words revealed the ugliness of their heart. When Jesus called them on their hypocrisy, they were offended. Jesus didn’t deny, verbally or in writing, that He had said it. He doubled down and called them blind guides. Harsh statements from Jesus that were made to bring the Pharisees into repentance. Hawk Nelson sang the song “Words” and the chorus says this: Words can build you up, Words can break you down, Start a fire in your heart or put it out, Let my words be life, Let my words be truth, I don’t wanna say a word unless it points the world back to You. We need to recognize the awesome power that words hold in the hearts of people. One of my desires is that I don’t wanna say a word, unless it points the world back to God. Join me?

Oh Lord, how many times I wish I could take my words back when I’ve said hurtful things. Guard my heart, so that I won’t think bad things. Guard my mouth so that I won’t say them. Let my words glorify You and draw people back to You.


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